POSTSCRIPT / May 6, 1999 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Marcoses, not RP gov’t, should produce $150M

IT is wrong for us to just agree to an American court’s assuming jurisdiction over persons and properties beyond the pale of US laws.

When Judge Manuel Real of the US District Court in Hawaii heard torture charges against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was then in exile in Honolulu, the judge was able to justify his trying the strongman because he was in American territory.

But when he ordered the Marcos estate to pay some $2 billion in damages to almost 10,000 torture victims, Real should have looked for Marcos properties in the US that could satisfy or guarantee payment.

When Real moved to touch properties under foreign jurisdiction, such as money deposited with the Philippine National Bank in Manila, he was overreaching. He was overextending his authority.

* * *

IT was preposterous for Real to order the Philippine government to transfer the money held in escrow with the PNB to an American bank he had designated. He had no business ordering around the Philippine government or any of its agencies.

The Hawaii judge should order the Marcoses — not the Philippine government — to produce the money.

To put things in proper order, and if only to maintain and protect our government’s own sovereign authority, Malacañang should have ignored Real’s order.

If the Palace wanted to say something, or if President Estrada was itching to deliver another one-liner, it should have been to tell Real to mind his own business, to scratch his own….

While the Estrada administration claims to sympathize with the torture victims, which is the correct posture to take publicly, it should have suggested to Real to look for Marcos money or assets within his jurisdiction and not go fishing in Manila.

Real may have seen too many Filipino old-timers in Hawaii, but that is not enough reason to conclude that all Filipinos are subject to the authority of his court.

* * *

FOR the Estrada administration to feed, or participate in, the megalomania of the American court reeks of colonial mentality (“colonial” tracing its roots to the “colon”).

Just because he is dying to go on a state visit to Washington DC and to give the impression that his heart bleeds for torture victims, President Estrada should not throw propriety out the window and display his servility to Americans.

The Estrada administration should advise Real to look for Marcos money or assets that are within the US. There are still some, if the boasts of Mrs. Imelda Marcos about the extent of their wealth are to be believed.

These are the properties that Real should locate and try seizing for the torture victims.

* * *

JUDGE Real cannot assume that the $590 million held in escrow with the PNB in Manila is owned by the late dictator until that is proved in the proper proceedings.

Assuming that the money is or was owned by the late dictator, Real still has to establish jurisdiction over it in a proper legal process.

Note that Presiding Justice Francis Garchitorena of our Sandiganbayan has ruled, with reason, that the graft court has exclusive jurisdiction over the money. Real should then keep off.

As Garchitorena looks for the correct bearings on the $590 million, another question he has to answer is whether it is legal, valid and fair for him to slice off $150 million to give to torture victims.

Are the victims the only beneficiary of the fund? How should it be apportioned, if it is to be apportioned at all? Certainly not necessarily in the manner Real dictates.

* * *

NO wonder, the lawyer of Mrs. Marcos himself, is wondering aloud before the startled Sandiganbayan if indeed the money held in escrow is owned by his client.

Lawyer Rodolfo Jimenez says that if and when the $150 million is taken from the fund to pay Marcos torture victims, the balance should be recognized as owned by the Marcoses. Is the government ready to do that?

Whatever it is that the Sandiganbayan decides to do, it should first be made very clear that the Hawaiian judge has no business giving a deadline for the Philippine government to transfer $150 million in a Manila bank to a bank of his choice in Honolulu.

* * *

TALKING of ownership, may the portions (if any) of the money that belong to the Marcos children Imee, Bongbong and Irene, be used to pay the victims of their father?

If the children did not participate in the alleged torture – and this should not be too difficult to establish — will it be right to have them jointly liable for the alleged violation of human rights? Should their share in the money being chased by Real be reduced to contribute to the payment of torture victims?

Imee was found guilty in one such case involving her and should thus be made to pay — but is it fair to make the other Marcos children share in, and pay for, the guilt of their father?

The Estrada administration should not just gloss over these points. They should be addressed before the $150 million is taken by Real and distributed to Marcos victims.

Without prior questions being laid to rest, Real cannot just order that the money, which is at present beyond his reach, be given to him by May 10.

* * *

ALAS, the Philippine National Police is on a self-destruct mode. The top officers have seen to that.

We have talked to many people and, without exception, they say that PNP Director General Roberto Lastimoso and the force he leads are in deep trouble.

It may not be fair to the PNP chief, but there is a widespread impression that there is basis for charges that he has been coddling drug lords. The “demolition job” on him seems to have scored somewhat.

The same people we’ve talked with say that even if only half of the allegations against Lastimoso are true, he should be told by President Estrada to resign immediately or be dismissed in disgrace.

* * *

AT the same time, Lastimoso’s tormentor, Director General Panfilo Lacson of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, appears to those we’ve talked with to be grasping and too impatient to get to the top.

Another point against Lacson is that it is bad form for a subordinate in the military or police service to publicly speak ill of his superior. If he does, as Hubbard says, “the first high wind that comes along will blow him away.”

“If he must growl, condemn or eternally find fault,” Hubbard continues, he should resign. And when he is on the outside, he can then damn to his heart’s content.

* * *

WITH police top brass allegedly in cahoots with big-time crime syndicates, where will the fearful citizens now turn for help?

A classic story is that of a car owner whose vehicle was grabbed from him by gun-wielding men. He rushed to Camp Crame to report the crime, and there saw the same holdup men chatting at police headquarters. They were police officers, and carnappers on the side!

The recent carnapping of the Pajero of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile demonstrated, again, that the police actually know the syndicates operating in their area. The presumption is that police officers live off the gangs, if they are not themselves active members.

On prohibited drugs, there is also the general impression that a big chunk of shabu and other prohibited drugs being seized is actually appropriated by lawmen for their own use or for resale.

* * *

ALL this, of course, is presumed to be going on with the knowledge of top brass who receive huge sums to make them look the other way.

We keep talking of presumptions and impressions, which substitute for “common knowledge.” Although we know the shenanigans going on, it is impossible to see the police investigating and building up a case against themselves.

In fact, there have been clear cases, such as the police massacre of suspected members of the Kuratong Baleleng robbery gang, which should result in the conviction of police officers, but such supposedly airtight cases vanish just like that.

The old battered question: Who will police the police?

* * *

ANOTHER implication of the top-level exchange of serious charges in the PNP is the sure erosion of the men’s morale.

With their glamorous generals known to be raking in dirty millions, why would the lowly traffic policeman, for instance, feel guilty taking a P100 bribe from a motorist accosted for traffic violation?

In fact, the foot patrolman looks pitiful sweating under the sun and slowly dying from the pollution in the streets, if gangsters who now have the courage to shoot it out with policemen do not fell him earlier.

While these patrolmen risk their lives and make do with a pittance for wages, the generals on top of them lead luxurious lifestyles grossly out of proportion to their legitimate income.

Who will save the police from themselves?

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 6, 1999)

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