Professor H. Harry L. Roque’s statement on the arrest of Mayor Binay:


The Senate order to arrest Mayor Junjun Binay comes at a time when the country is in deep national mourning over the massacre of so many of our police heroes. It comes at a time when the people await complete and transparent explanation from its leaders on the true circumstances why our bravest and most patriotic sons in the police force were recklessly sent to the slaughterhouse and murdered like animals. It comes at a time when the highest officials of our nation face accounting of their   active participation and liability in these tragic loss of so many young and promising lives.

At a time when the investigative resources and powers of the government should be rightfully summoned and devoted to uncovering what happened in this massacre, it saddens me to notice   the deafening silence of the Senate leadership on the   need for a Senate investigation, even after the President   himself and police generals   have admitted reckless lapses committed in sending   our police martyrs to   certain death.

At a time when the undivided attention of the people should be left concentrated on   this national tragedy   because it crucially comes in the midst of pending   deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law — this tragedy is presenting itself as the litmus test   for the Senate to investigate the MILF’s true commitment to   real peace — the Senate has chosen to divert   the people’s attention to an overly-drawn and extended investigation on Mayor Binay.

By ordering the arrest of Mayor Binay at this time, the Senate has inevitably chosen to divide the people’s   crucial attention and deflect full public scrutiny and accountability of our leaders and the MILF on the national tragedy that has left grieving parents, anguished widows, and wretched orphans.

In choosing to divert public attention on an arrested Mayor Binay,   the Senate has even   disregarded basic rules and has chosen to ignore Supreme Court admonitions on the indispensability of a quorum. With only three Senators out of a total membership of   20 Senators in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee,   the   mere three-members declared that they had the quorum to unilaterally act   for the 20-member Blue Ribbon Committee and issue an arrest order on Mayor Binay. This is   a blatant   violation of the most basic tenet of legislative bodies. How low can the Senate get in   twisting the definition of a quorum just to deflect attention from the most pressing issue of the day? If the Senate can redefine quorum to merely require   three members out of a total of 20,   what will prevent them from   declaring that a mere single Senator will constitute a quorum   who can order the arrest of any Juan, Pedro, or Mario?

As the accusations against Mayor Binay have repeatedly been branded as criminal anomalies by the Senators themselves, the accusations   should be rightfully ventilated in the judicial branch of government, and not used as a circus for media mileage and political assassination in the Senate.

I call upon the Senate to submit to the judiciary all the evidence it has against Mayor Binay and let the judiciary perform it rightful duty to assess responsibility,   find liability and   impose penalties. Unlike the judiciary which is mandated to find guilt or innocence, no matter how long drawn the Senate conducts any investigation, the Senate has no power to impose sanctions and penalties resulting from its findings.

I call upon the Senate to correctly make use of its   “investigation in aid of legislation” powers by summoning the leaders of the executive and military branches of government, and even the MILF, who were involved — regardless of   their   standing as   allies of the Senate leadership — in the Mamapasano massacre. This will be the correct use of the investigative powers of the senate “in aid of legislation” in connection with the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law.

War crime in Mamasapano


We can count on my kumadre, star reporter Christine “Mamu” Herrera of this newspaper, to scoop all other broadsheets and news outfits for the truth particularly on sensational stories such as the Mamasapano massacre that claimed the lives of no less than 40 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police. Now we know that the blame for the carnage lies with PNoy himself who was only too willing to please his American master to apprehend two of the most wanted terrorists in the list of the US State Department. It appears from Mamu’s report that the President authorized the mission and for all intents and purposes, only he, his most trusted PNP Chief Allan Purisima, and the Americans knew about the mission.

In fairness, blame for the carnage should not be put on PNoy alone. His partner in peace, or should we say in violence, the MILF, is equally to blame. PNoy wrongfully thought that because of the prevailing ceasefire, his newfound comrades would not engage and more so, massacre our men. He thought wrong.

And because PNoy was out to please his American benefactors to whom he has surrendered Philippine sovereignty through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, it is only but logical that four American GIs were sighted in the area. Obviously, since the Americans so badly wanted to capture the suspected terrorist as in fact, they offered a bounty of no less than two hundred sixty million pesos for their capture, it is but logical that Uncle Sam be on the ground to supervise the manhunt. And like PNoy, the Americans also did not anticipate that the MILF, because it has been receiving almost all of its Official Development Assistance intended for the country, would turn against the men that it has enticed to capture their enemy.

Clearly, the Mamasapano massacre has brought out a number of crucial policy issues that we, PNoy’s bosses, would now have to resolve. Foremost of these is the extent that we would go to serve America’s interests in the region. I have quite frankly, not heard of the two terrorists most wanted by the Americans until the massacre. Were the lives of more than 40 of our fellow Filipinos worth the botched effort to capture these alleged terrorists? I do not think so.

Another policy issues is: what were America’s most wanted terrorists doing in the territory controlled by the MILF? Why did we sign a peace agreement with a group known for harboring world-class terrorists? Long before this incident, veteran reporter Maria Ressa reported that the MILF has been allowing the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah to train and use its camps in Mindanao. Why did Ging Deles agree to channel billions of taxpayer’s money and to surrender Philippine sovereignty to a group that has long been notorious for harboring world-class terrorists?

There too is the issue of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. I have to disclose that I have been engaged by two groups to question this agreement as soon as Congress legislate the required enabling legislation. But outside the constitutional issues arising from the agreement, the even bigger obstacle now is the ability of the MILF to comply with its obligations under the peace agreement. At a time when both the PNoy administration and the MILF are courting both the support of Congress and the sovereign people to support this unconstitutional accord, the MILF, with no rhyme or reason, proceed to massacre our men. Can you imagine what they are capable of doing when they have already gotten their sub-state, legitimized their armed forces, and after they could legitimately receive funding from their Muslim supporters abroad? They have proven themselves capable of committing the worst atrocities when they are craving for support. Clearly, they have also proven themselves capable of worst barbarity after we have given in to their demands and legitimized their existence. It is very sad that more than 40 of our men had to be martyred for us to accept the reality that the MILF simply cannot be trusted to maintain the peace.

It is now a foregone conclusion that any member of Congress who would still dare to support the proposed Bangsamoro law after the massacre is doomed. So the more pressing issue now is that of accountability. While we do not know yet the details of the massacre, it appears from the disproportionate number of casualties from both sides: 40 dead in the PNP as against only 8 casualties for the MILF, that what happened to our men was not a military encounter, but a trap that led to the massacre. And because there was a prevailing ceasefire, it could be argued that the MILF must have employed perfidy, a war crime, since the MILF must have invited the confidence of our men that the peace pact means that they will not be attacked in their territory. So the question n everyone’s mind now, including our Chief Justice who called on everyone to adhere to the rule of law, is whether the MILF and its men will be prosecuted for the war crime of perfidy punishable under International Humanitarian Law ?

Certainly, Ging Deles and Miriam Ferrer would both object to such prosecution while the peace accord is still in place. If so, then perhaps we should make our first country referral to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Let us honor the memories of our fallen heroes by enjoining the public to utilize the rule of law against the MILF and prosecute its leadership for war crimes.

Enough is enough.

This post first appeared in http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/01/29/war-crime-in-mamasapano/.

Falling on deaf ears


Pope Francis proved himself to be the biggest “rock star” who invaded our country. With an estimated 6 to 7 million braving the rain to hear his final mass at Luneta, the Pontiff has clearly proven that he is the single most loved person in this country. The closest who could rival his drawing power was Tita Cory shortly after the despot cheated her and the people also flocked to Luneta. But make no mistake about it, even Tita Cory was no match to the charm and enigma of the current Pope.

In a way it was sad that many of us ignored the Churchs’ call not to focus on the Pope as a personality, but as a symbol of Christ. I’m sure those who lined up for a glimpse of the pope did so because they were captivated by the smile of the Argentinian, rather than the fact that he stands as a symbol of Christ. Perhaps, what we should be aiming for, now that our favorite “rock star” has left, is that his message should at least not fall on deaf ears.

And boy, did we need his message. Addressing the nation for the first time in Malacañang, the Holy Father did not mince words when in the presence of our corrupt politicians from all branches of government, as well as personalities who belong to the 1 percent that owns 40 percent of all the wealth of the country, the Pope demanded from his audience to “end scandalous social inequalities.”

The Pope continued: “ it is now more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good”. The pontiff must have known that present in Malacañang then were the biggest thieves in this country. He then enjoined the elite to “ensure social justice and respect human dignity”. Then he demanded what surely will be ignored by our political and economic elite: “to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor”.

Certainly, the pontiff must have been briefed about the PDAF and DAP scandals that are proof that almost every senatong, tongressman, president and members of the cabinet are corrupt to the core. In fact, he had even harsher words to say to the thick-faced goody-goodies in the cabinet who are building their election kitties from the miseries of the victims of typhoon Yolanda in Leyte: “but you have seen, in the profiteering and failed responses to this great human drama, so many tragic signs of the evil from which Christ came to save us”. He urged the faithful to pray that “everyone be more sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. Let us pray that it will lead to a rejection of all forms of injustice and corruption which, by stealing from then poor poison the very roots of society”.

Then the pope clearly took sides against the rich and in favor of the poor: “I ask that the poor of this country be treated fairly- that their dignity be respected, that political and economic policies be just and inclusive xxx and that obstacles to the delivery of social services be removed”. I do not know about you, but if I were PNoy or a member of his cabinet, this should be read as a big slap on the face coming at a time when even the Commission on Audit reported that the controversial policy of dole-outs known as CCT has been tainted with widespread corruption, ranging from ghost beneficiaries and over-reporting of benefits received by its beneficiaries.

At the UST, the pope could not help but weep when a child asked: “why does God allow the children to suffer?” Earlier, Father Shay Cullen reported that Dinky Soliman’s DSWD caged no less than 400 children to clean up the streets of Metro-Manila for the pope’s visit.

Now that the pontiff has left, what will happen to the message he has imparted?

Well, the President was quick to say that the Pope could not have been referring to his administration when he asked that the government treat the poor with respect. He must still be blaming the past administration, as in fact he did in his address in Malacañang, for the poverty that the Pope decried. Taking the cue from PNoy, Dinky Soliman followed suit and again assured the nation that in the same way that the COA report on the corruption in CCT was erroneous, that Father Cullen’s report about caged street children was also wrong. I take it that both the President and Soliman are saying that the pope received the wrong advice?

Fortunately, the pope did not have to be advised to see the real score in this country. He was so moved by the miseries of the typhoon victims that he was reported to have said that he needed the experience. I’m sure he knew that the reason why the victims suffered even more was because of PNoy’s adoption of the Roxas policy to spare their political enemies relief that government should have given on humanitarian grounds.

And yes, he himself must have seen the plight of the street children in both Tacloban and Manila. Yes, he saw the children the we have been seeing every day but unlike our leaders, took a humane view that the children should not be where they are.

So will our leaders heed the message? Honestly, I doubt it. They will forever gloat about the blessing they received from the Pope having seen him up close at the airport, in Malacañang, and from their front row seats at Luneta.

Yup, we’re back to normal.

This post first appeared on http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/01/22/falling-on-deaf-ears-2/.

Je Suis Charlie!


This past week saw two very serious threats to freedom of expression.

The first was the worst terrorist attack in Paris, France in 50 years that left 10 journalists dead. All ten were then attending an editorial meeting of the publication Charlie Hebdo, a tabloid popular renown for its satire. Amongst the subject of its satirical commentary was the Islamic faith.

Some temper their condemnation of the attack in Paris on the basis that after all, the murdered journalists should not have worked for a publication that blasphemed the Islamic faith. This is gross error. Freedom of expression precisely exists to protect unpopular speech. Expression that extolls needs no protection. It is precisely thoughts that might offend some that deserve protection because these kinds of comments still form part of the free marketplace of ideas from which the people discern the truth and form their opinions.

The second was the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing the appeal of Carlos Celdran from a conviction for the felony of offending religious feelings. Celdran’s conviction was for displaying the placard “DAMASO” in Manila Cathedral during a mass. He allegedly also said that the church should stay out of politics at the height of the debate on the RH law.

Actually, Celdran’s conviction, save for the fact that he is alive, is equally infirmed as the Paris attack. The only difference is that the infringement on unpopular speech has been in Celdran’s case, legitimized by the Courts. But make no mistake about it: in failing to declare that the crime of offending religious feelings is contrary to freedom of expression, the Court has sustained the validity of an archaic law that makes it a crime to criticize the dominant faith in the Philippines. This is no different from the intent of those who murdered 10 in Paris: to suppress information which is deemed offensive.

The marked difference is how the French and we, Filipinos, deal with the threats to freedom of expression. True, there is the fact that the death of 10 journalists should never be countenanced and should be condemned as a brutal affront on a cherished right. This was why millions expressed their condemnation in a giant rally in Paris and on the net worldwide. But here in the Philippines, even when 32 journalists were killed in Maguindanao in the single deadliest attack against journalists worldwide, there was some condemnation, but there was no rally of the size and scope that we saw on CNN a couple of days ago. This is also probably why Celdran’s conviction was barely noticed especially since the entire nation is stricken with pope fever. Why bother, after all, with one who blasphemed the majority faith at a time when the holy Pope is about to visit the country?

How I wish the Filipinos could be more like the French in this regard. True, it was France that gave us modern democracy through the mottos of liberty, freedom and equality. But we Filipinos were also the first to utter the same motto when we declared ourselves the first Republic in Asia.

In other words, we should be more conscious of the role that freedom of expression plays in the promotion of freedom, liberty and equality . Without freedom of expression, there can be no exchange of ideas. Without exchange of ideas, there can be no truth. Without the truth, there can be no opinion. Without individual opinion, there could be no pubic opinion. Without public opinion, there cannot be accountability. Without accountability, there will be no democracy.

Yes, the papal visit is a reason to celebrate. But just as this Pope stands for justice and democracy, the Filipino people should emulate him and be more expressive in condemning threats to democracy and freedom.

Je Suis Charlie!

Welcome to the Philippines, Holy Father!
1

Laude files Motion for Reconsideration to the December 23 Order


Please click here for a copy of the Motion for Reconsideration filed on January 9, 2014 by Marilou Laude, by counsel, to the December 23, 2014 Order of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court based on the following legal grounds:

I. The 3-day notice rule is not absolute. Its rationale is satisfied when there is an opportunity to be heard– which was clearly present in the hearing for these two motions. The collaborating counsel (Atty. Felimon Ray l. Javier) for the accused, and the public prosecutor (city prosecutor Emilie Fe M. Delos Santos) were present during the 22 December 2014 hearing day for the two motions, and they even made their oral comments.

II. Moreover, there were exigent circumstances as to the filing of the two motions that, consequently, called for a liberal application of the 3-day notice rule.

III. Private complainant filed her two motions in accordance with her “right to access to justice” under international human rights law. Hence, the conforme of the public prosecutors is not necessary to the two motions.

IV. It was not possible to get the conforme of the public prosecutors to the “urgent motion to compel the armed forces of the Philippines to surrender custody of accused to the olongapo city jail” since the head of the panel of public prosecutors, city prosecutor Emilie Fe M. Delos Santos, refused to sign it — in contradiction to the official position of the justice secretary. The city prosecutor also refused to sign the “motion to allow media coverage.”

V. The issues raised in the two motions are issues of transcendental importance and of primordial public interest. Hence, it is essential that the honorable court resolve the two motions on its substantive merits.

Further, private complainant reiterates its prayer that the honorable court allow the media to enter the court room and cover the hearings in this case.

Kin of Laude opposes Pemberton’s petition for review


Reference: Atty Harry Roque 09175398096

The family of murdered Jennifer Laude today filed a 34-page opposition to Pemberton’s petition for review with the Department of Justice. According to Marilou Laude, sister of Jennifer, Pemberton’s petition is bereft of merit. Pemberton decried and alleged violation of due process when the panel of prosecutors decided that there exists probable cause on the basis, among others, a report made by the NCIS. “We should be one aggrieved by the NCIS report because until today Olongapo City Prosecutor Emily Delos Santos has refused to give us a copy of the same. Pemberton was given a copy of the report. What is he complaining about now?” Laude asked.

Furthermore, Laude emphasized that Pemberton waived his right to rebut any and all evidence when he opted not to submit his counter affidavit. “Pemberton forfeited his right to be heard, he did so voluntarily with assistance of counsel. He cannot now complain that his right to due process is violated,” added Prof Harry Roque, one of the private prosecutors representing the Laude family.

Bertha fellow Charlaine Latorre further added that charge of murder was proper given that the many bruises sustained by Jennifer are all evidence of treachery and cruelty.

Zharmai Garcia, also a Bertha fellow, observed that there is abuse of superior strength because Pemberton underwent combat training and qualified as private first class in the U.S. Marine. The Laude camp also announced that they will file motion for reconsideration of the orders of the RTC suspending the proceedings, and denying their motion to transfer Pemberton to another jail and for media coverage.

Click here for a copy of the comment/opposition filed today.