POSTSCRIPT / August 24, 2000 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Settlement: An indecent proposal on Marcos loot

UPDATE on the bill establishing a non-profit National Oil Exchange (OilEx) to lower the price of gasoline by buying the country’s total fuel needs through bidding and negotiations with some 40 refineries and traders worldwide and distributing it at the lowest price possible:

  • More congressmen have signed up as co-sponsors of the OilEx bill introduced by Bataan Rep. Enrique T. Garcia. From 184, the co-sponsors have swelled to 190 out of the 220 members of the House of Representatives.
  • In the latest survey (July) of Pulse Asia, nationwide public support for the OilEx went up from 58 percent in March to 73 percent.
  • In the ABC sector, the approval rating was 72 percent in July, compared to 59 percent in March. For the D sector, approval was 75 percent in July against 57 percent in March. For the E sector, it was 67 percent in July and 58 percent approval in March.
  • The bill has been approved unanimously and reported out by the House committee on government corporations and privatization, as well as the committee on appropriations for the earmarking of the startup capital of the OilEx.
  • With the committee on rules approving and calendaring it, the bill is expected to hit the House floor early next week for debates. In the Senate, more senators have been speaking in support of the OilEx.

* * *

ALLOWING President Estrada to just settle the ill-gotten wealth cases of his friends the Marcoses, as proposed by a congressman from Mindanao, is a most indecent proposal.

That has been the grand plot since the time Erap Estrada stepped into Malacañang. The idea has been to tire the government and the people, intensify their need for money, then pop the proposal to just settle the cases and split the Marcos loot.

Mr. Estrada himself broached the same suspicious proposal early in his term, but slinked back when it was met with virulent objection. Now they are floating the same idea again. They will never stop.

* * *

REP. Roseller Barinaga of Zamboanga del Norte is asking Congress to give the President authority to enter into a compromise with the Marcoses because, he said, we badly need the money. He is talking to the wrong party.

With Congress not truly representative of the people, it cannot give the authority sought. It has no moral right to do that. But if not Congress, who could? Should a direct referendum be conducted to ask the people themselves what they think should be done?

Alas, with our electoral process also shot through with holes, neither would a referendum be able to determine the true wishes of the people. Neither would an opinion survey by commercial pollsters.

What to do? All we have to do is follow the law. We have all the laws needed to retrieve stolen property, punish the thieves and mete out justice. Why should there be a compromise just because the Marcoses and their dirty billions are involved?

* * *

ALL around us in the region – in Korea, Indonesia, et cetera — we’ve seen how corrupt former heads of government have been tried and convicted of high crimes, including cases of illegal wealth similar to those thrown at the Marcoses.

We claim to be the bulwark of democracy in these parts, but how come we are not able to do this simple thing? We all know the answer.

It is not enough to go after the thieves. We should also insist on meting out severe punishment for their co-conspirators and protectors in the high echelons of government.

* * *

RUNNING the past three days in the PhilSTAR is a paper of Justice Artemio V. Panganiban on the problem of delayed justice. It was triggered by a recent report that “court dockets – from the Supreme Court to the first level courts – are heavily clogged, rendering the administration of justice vulnerable to inefficiency.”

Panganiban, the chair of the Supreme Court’s committee on public information, traces in his paper the root causes of delays and explains the court’s program to address them.

The substantive part of the published report skipped the introduction (presumably to save on space) which was a very appropriate, though apocryphal, story illustrating the frustration of many people over the slow delivery of justice in this country.

Many of us have heard the story before, but still we’re sharing it for its humor and appropriateness.

* * *

HERE it is as told by Justice Panganiban: “A local movie shown a few years ago depicted a courtroom drama of two women who were both claiming to be the mother of the same infant boy.

“When the father of the child cannot be determined, that is normal. But when two women claim to be the mother of the same child, that is unusual. It is reminiscent of the problem brought to the great, wise King Solomon.

“When the case was called for hearing, the judge asked the two claimants to stand up. However, nobody responded. In his irritation, the judge banged his gavel and boomed: “I am ordering the parties in this case to stand up and approach the bench.”

“Slowly, an old man of about 75 years with white hair and a frail body limped towards His Honor. The judge was more irritated.

“‘Hindi po kayo, Lolo. Ang tinatawag po ay iyong dalawang babae na partido dito sa kaso.’ (‘Not you, Grandpa. I am calling the two women, the parties to this case.’)

“But the old man did not mind the judge and continued walking towards the bench. When he was near enough, he said, ‘Kagalanggalang na hukom, patay na po ang dalawang babae. Nguni’t partido din po ako rito. Ako po iyong sanggol na pinag-aawayan nila!’ (‘Your Honor, the two women are now dead. But I am also a party to this case. I was the baby they were fighting over!’)

* * *

ONE case that comes to mind is that of several people picked up and beaten black and blue to own the ambush-murder in June 1996 of dreaded Marcos military operator Col. Rolando Abadilla.

The hurried wrapping up of the case came after then DILG Secretary Robert Barbers gave the investigators a deadline to solve the murder. The police apparently had to show results as Barbers was then set to launch his bid for a Senate seat.

Picking up the hurried pacing, Quezon City RTC Judge Jaime N. Salazar presided over a speedy trial that saw five of the accused meted out capital punishment.

But even as the judge was writing his decision, the communist hit squad Alex Boncayao Brigade announced the murder to be its handiwork. The ABB said Abadilla was executed for his alleged crimes against the people, but this had no impact on the judge.

* * *

NOT long after, Fr. Robert Reyes (known as “running priest” for frequently taking to the jogging trail to call attention to his advocacies) also reported having been approached by an ABB leader and given by him a watch allegedly taken from Abadilla to prove the assassins’ claim.

The priest rushed to court to prevent a miscarriage of justice, but Judge Salazar apparently was not inclined to rewrite his decision convicting five of the accused. The judge just tossed to the Supreme Court the procedural problem of reviewing the case.

Last Aug. 11 was the first anniversary of the promulgation of the death sentence. Lawyer Soliman Santos Jr. representing some of the convicts pointed out in a petition with the high court that his clients who he said were innocent have been behind bars since June 1996, including on Death Row since August 1999.

The lawyer said the least the tribunal could do is order Judge Salazar to comment on the petition of the convicts accusing the judge of grave abuse of discretion for not allowing the presentation of evidence that it was the ABB that had executed Abadilla.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 24, 2000)

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