May 12, 2006

Travesty of justice

There is something terribly wrong when the government agency tasked to uphold justice wantonly disregards the rule of law purportedly to prosecute alleged enemies of the state.

Most of us have somehow gotten use to thieves, cheaters, liars and murderers getting away scot-free in this god-forsaken country, especially when they occupy exalted positions in government and society. But sending innocent people to jail on trumped-up charges and without a modicum of due process is a travesty that decent and upright citizens cannot take sitting down.

The Department of Justice grievously violated the right to presumption of innocence and due process of Representative Crispin Ka Bel Beltran when they upheld his illegal arrest on the basis of a 1985 warrant of arrest for a case that had already been dismissed. Realizing their error, the authorities then immediately filed sedition charges against him in a QC trial court.

When Ka Bel was allowed by the QC court to go free on the basis of his parliamentary immunity from minor suits, the DOJ promptly filed yet another case, this time conspiracy to commit rebellion together with 1Lt Lawrence San Juan and several John/Jane Does.

It is on the basis of this charge that Ka Bel now languishes in detention and the so-called Batasan 5, or the 5 party-list representatives who escaped arbitrary arrest and detention by seeking refuge as parliamentarians in the House of Representatives (HOR), were until recently held under virtual arrest inside the HOR premises because of the repeated threats by the DOJ and police to arrest them once they step outside
Congress grounds.

The 6 legislators were able to irrefutably disprove the testimony of a witness claiming to have seen them meeting with Lt San Juan in Batangas on February 20 using official records and video footages showing that they were all in the plenary session of the Congress at that date and time.

Other pieces of evidence against Ka Bel include testimonies of soldiers attesting to their participation in alleged meetings of the Makabayang Kawal Pilipino (MKP). None of these testimonies name or refer to Ka Bel nor the 5 other party list representatives and are therefore irrelevant to their cases.

Subsequently in the Amended Information that included the Batasan 5 and scores of other respondents, government prosecutors attempt to build up a case of conspiracy to commit rebellion on the basis of the fact that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples Army, have been existing since the late sixties and their unsubstantiated claim that the accused are all high ranking members of said proscribed organizations.

Without offering a single shred of evidence, the accused were said to be willfully, unlawfully and feloniously compliment(ing) the said ongoing rebellion thru extra-legal means and through different front organizations of the CPP… such as but not limited to party list groups as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Womens Party as well as Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Gabriela, League of Filipino Students, etc.

The Makati RTC judge who threw out the Amended Information, Judge Jenny Lindt Delorino, pointedly upbraided the DOJ prosecutors for failure to attach the affidavits of the complainant and its witnesses, along with other copies of the evidence. She ruled that this is a fatal defect that warrants the Courts denying admission of the Amended Information.

In a fit of pique as well as in a most deliberate attempt to preempt the issuance of a favorable court ruling on the motion of Ka Bels lawyers that the case against him be dismissed for lack of probable cause, the DOJ has moved for the inhibition of Judge Delorino. The DOJ accuses her of lack of impartiality simply because she refused to dance to the tune of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and opted to follow the rules of court to protect and uphold the substantive rights of the accused.

Mr. Gonzales taunt that they it would be better for the Batasan 5 to go back to the mountains after they successfully left the HOR premises in assertion of their democratic rights is a malicious attempt to further condemn these progressive legislators as guilty by association with avowedly revolutionary groups. It is also an unwitting admission that the DOJ/PNP/AFP do not have the evidence, the just grounds, and whatever it takes to successfully and judiciously prosecute Ka Bel et al.

If rebellion thrives on or is rooted in social iniquity and injustice, then Mr. Gonzales is pouring gasoline into the fire, what with the illegal and highly irregular manner by which he is prosecuting alleged rebels.

Mr. Gonzales is resorting to the dirtiest of tricks to throw innocent people to jail. He willfully breaks the law including the Constitution itself in order to suppress dissent despite recent Supreme Court ruling on Presidential Proclamation 1017 and its clear and unequivocal warnings against tyranny and dictatorial rule.

We believe Mr. Gonzales when he says he knows his law and due process. The big question is how he has used that knowledge and for what ends. As DOJ Secretary he has used it not to uphold justice but to make a travesty of it.

The evident rush to throw the Batasan 6, mass leaders of peoples organizations and other anti-Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) personalities behind bars is not much of a mystery. It is not difficult to see the direct connection to Malacañang frenzied but failing efforts to preempt the resurgent anti-GMA mass movement and the broad political front, including Congress and the anti-Charter change movement, that is moving to thwart GMAs desperate attempts to hold on to power.#


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