POSTSCRIPT / March 1, 2018 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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With Carpio as OIC, SC is in good hands

WE’VE not personally met either Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno or Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, but we’re among those who believe that the Supreme Court would be in good hands if Carpio, as reported, would be officer-in-charge while Sereno is on leave.

We would even dare say that with Carpio at the helm, an impeached Sereno could stay out – either on indefinite wellness leave or ousted after conviction by the Senate – without much damage to the institution.

As we write this, Sereno is set to go on an open-ended leave today, to return when she feels she has completed her preparation for the expected trial in the Senate on the impeachment charges being wrapped up in the House of Representatives.

As one of her spokesmen said, resignation is not an option, which was dramatized this week when an associate justice reportedly pressed Sereno in an executive session to resign – and she refused.

The public was earlier treated to the spectacle of associate justices stepping out of the confines of the court to “make sumbong” (report) to the House her alleged excesses. The scene proved not only the immaturity of some SC magistrates but also the leadership lack of Sereno.

As shown in the legal-political skirmishes in the tribunal and the House where the impeachment complaint is being polished to perfection, only death, resignation or conviction in the Senate trial can remove the Chief Justice.

The hounding of key magistrates of the judiciary and the heads of other agencies standing in the way of the marching pro-Duterte forces makes starker the fact that the institutions people depend upon to nip any budding autocracy or tyranny are crumbling one after another.

An associate justice of the tribunal noted on Twitter: “Wow! Just wow! Heto na ata tayo. The people to whom we are clinging on to fight the atrocities of this government are folding one by one. We are on our own, people!”

The Congress, whose two chambers started with only more than a dozen members of Duterte’s victorious PDP-Laban party, is now in the grip of a supermajority ready to execute orders from the top.

House plenary approval of the impeachment charges against Sereno is a foregone conclusion, with their filing in the Senate seen in mid-March. To cure the fatal lack of substance of the original complaint filed by a partisan, the House went out of its way to fish for evidence.

Like a railroad station awaiting a train heaving into view, the Senate is already preparing for Sereno’s trial, including the ordering of special toga or robes to make the senator-judges look more judicial-like than the traditional politicians that they are.

• What? Trump to ape ‘Tokhang’?

“TRUMP wants drug dealers executed, like in the Philippines,” said a headline yesterday, drawing befuddled reactions in Washington and Manila.

Citing the policy adopted by the Philippines and Singapore on curbing the drug menace, US President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to execute drug dealers in his country, news website Axios reported Sunday.

With that headline, the report could be interpreted to mean that Trump has been so impressed that he now wants to adopt features of the anti-narcotics campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, or that he was endorsing his drug war that had killed thousands of suspected drug pushers and users.

The head of the story should have just said “Trump wants drug dealers executed” without adding “like in the Philippines” without qualifying how it is done by Duterte’s police raiders now unleashed on a Tokhang rerun.

We think Trump and his handlers are not so naïve as to let it be known that he was impressed – we think he was not — by Duterte’s bloody style that even now is facing preliminary examination by prosecutors of the International Criminal Court for alleged wholesale violation of human rights.

The US President was quoted in the article as saying that Chinese and Filipinos “don’t have a drug problem” because they kill drug dealers. Axios  also quoted an unnamed senior official as saying that Trump “often jokes about killing drug dealers.”

Trump sometimes uses hyperbole, but we cannot imagine him twitting or thinking aloud of executing drug dealers outside the lawful process, or telling cops to maneuver suspects into grabbing an officer’s pistol and shooting it out.

Citing five sources claiming to have talked to Trump, Axios reported that he has been telling some friends privately that the death penalty in Singapore is the reason why drug use there is low.

Qualifications were actually given in the story – such as what/who Trump was referring to as “drugs” and “drug dealers” — but these were not so pronounced as to obviate a misimpression of implied US endorsement of Duterte’s methods.

Responding to the Axios report, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump’s focus was only on high-volume drug dealers, particularly those trafficking fentanyl, a synthetic opioid mainly manufactured in Chinese labs that can be lethal in extremely small doses.

Conway told Axios: “The President makes a distinction between those that are languishing in prison for low-level drug offenses and the kingpins hauling thousands of lethal doses of fentanyl into communities, that are responsible for many casualties in a single weekend.”

Duterte himself once disclosed in a rambling speech that he had been using fentanyl, raising concern that his health may have been affected. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse has warned that fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

In his narration, Duterte recalled that one time his doctor took back the prescription medicine, because he was instructed to divide the fentanyl (presumably the patch type plastered on the skin) into four and use it a quarter at a time, but he was using all of it – resulting in a scary overdose.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 1, 2018)

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