Syrian rebels threat to Filipino UN peacekeepers a war crime


The Center for International Law (CenterLaw) said today Syrian rebels who have surrounded Filipino soldiers who are part of the UN contingent of peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and threaten to hold them hostage violate the latter’s protected status under international law .

“UN peacekeepers have been deployed not to take part in hostilities as combatants but to maintain international peace and security under the UN Charter,” said lawyer Romel Bagares, Executive Director of the non-profit dedicated to the promotion of international legal norms in Asia and the Philippines. “They therefore remain protected as civilian non-combatants and are not to be targeted nor taken as prisoners of war by any of the parties to the hostilities.”

Bagares appealed to the Syrian rebels to respect the Geneva Conventions granting protected status to UN peacekeepers, warning that they may be prosecuted for war crimes if they insist on ignoring the distinction between peacekeepers and combatants under the law on armed conflict and attack the UN peacekeepers.

He said three rebel commanders in Sudan are now being prosecuted before the International Criminal Court for leading an attack on African Union peacekeepers in Darfur.

“All persons who are neither members of the armed forces of a party to the are entitled to protection against direct attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.,” said Bagares.

Intentionally directing attacks against a peacekeeping mission is a crime under the Rome Statute, which created the world’s first permanent international criminal tribunal.

In this case, it is clear that the Filipino soldiers had been deployed under the color and authority of the UN and are readily distinguishable from combatants in the conflict for that reason, according to the lawyer.

He added that the Filipino peacekeepers have a recognized right to self-defense under international law and may use force to protect themselves from any attack.

-30-

Binay is it!


I am not from Makati. I have, however been practicing law from Makati for the past 25 years. Surely, I have had enough experience with the City to conclude that while not claiming to be a saint, unlike many in this administration, Jejomar Binay is still the best leader to steer this country into the path of genuine and relevant economic growth and democracy.

My admiration for him begins from having known him as my mother’s favorite student in Pasay City High School. While he has lived in Makati for a very long time, he studied high school in Pasay. My mother never ran out of good things to say about the man, He was apparently very poor as a student that my mother and my grandmother, herself a public school teacher, took him under their protective fold not just in school, but even outside of school. My mother would tell me that Jojo was actually her eldest son. An orphan, he obviously brought out my mother’s maternal instinct to the point that Jojo’s many achievement became the proud moments for my mom as well.

But beyond the very parochial reason that Jojo Binay was my mom’s absolutely favorite student in her 55 years or so of teaching, I also admired him particularly during the trying anti-Marcos days. Then a renowned human right lawyer, Jojo was fearless in fighting for the restoration of democracy during one of the darkest moments of our history. His convictions did not go unnoticed. This was why former President Corazon Aquino appointed him Officer in Charge for Makati. This was also why initially, the residents of the country’s financial district gave him a mandate to rule. But the Cory magic could not have lasted long. Remember that like the son PNoy, she was initially everyone’s darling. She left office with one of the lowest acceptance levels of any President since the onslaught of public opinion surveys.

The fact therefore is that Jojo Binay has been in control of Makati, either because he (or his kin) was or his kin mayor of the City, or he did a lot of good to the City. Yes, it had been the financial district even before he became mayor. But it was during his stay in office that the people of Makati actually benefited from the financial growth of the city. This, we hope, is something that he can duplicate nationally for six years, beginning in 2016.

For instance, notice the proliferation of classrooms in the city. Notice how big the city’s college has become. Notice that in primary schools, the city’s children have been fed, a feat which the national government has not replicated. Then, there’s the now-famous yellow card that has enabled the city’ s poor to avail of quality medical care even from private hospitals that cater only to the rich. His developmental model is obviously patterned after Europe: encourage financial development so the rich can be taxed high. Use the tax revenues, in turn, to deliver basic services to the people. And, lest we forget, Makati beat the rest of the nation in according our elders simple but much appreciated privileges—from free movies to the birthday caked that his detractors now want to demonize.

Can I vouch that Jojo Binay did not enrich himself all these years that he has been in control of Makati?

Like everyone else, probably not- if only because I do not have any personal knowledge that he has plundered, malversed and/or misappropriated public funds. Yes, I have heard of some disparaging reports about him. But none of these charges have been proven in Court. Certainly, he could not have evaded the wheels of justice for as long as he has been in control of Makati without the elite from his city ensuring that he would be found guilty of at least for one crime involving graft and corruption. Let’s face it, the elite of Makati from their enclaves in Forbes and Dasma hate the guy, probably because he is dark. Be that as it may, they have not, despite their huge financial resources, been able to prove that Jojo Binay is corrupt.

What do I think about the alleged overpriced parking building in City Hall?

To begin with, all practicing litigators appreciate that building. It used to be dingy court rooms with smelly toilets. Now, the court rooms are world-class. Once, I had foreign observers in a Makati court to observe a trial of a freedom of speech case. The top notch lawyers comprising the trial observation team could only say that they believed that they were in a court room at the heart of Manhattan. And yes, that allegedly overpriced building has given lawyers what they need the most: parking at reasonable rates.

But let the Ombudsman investigate if the building is really overpriced. That’s its constitutional mandate. But for our senators to arrogate unto themselves this constitutional powers in aid of their own elections is clearly an abuse of power.

Will I support Jojo Binay for 2016? Make no mistake: he’s the only one for the job. To begin with, he is a lawyer and unlike PNoy, can defend his initiatives through the wringers of our Court system. He has had a very long experience as a local executive which is the experience that this country needs if we are to improve the plight of the poor. He also has the ideology , which I will describe as European democratic socialist, which judging from what he did in Makati, would mean excellent public schools systems and medical care for our people. With a little luck, and with his experience as housing czar, he can also provide for housing for many which in turn, will also serve as a genuine economic stimulus, unlike the DAP.

Binay’s profession, managerial experience, and the fact that he was once poor and knows what the poor need, make him the guy who should be in Malacanang in 2016. Go Jojo!

First published in http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/08/28/binay-is-it-/ on August 28, 2014.

Disputing treason because of Itu Aba


It is unfortunate that the discussion of whether recently appointed Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza committed treason in omitting Itu Aba from our statement of Arbitral Claims is taking place with the general public in the dark on what the facts and issues are. This is because under the rules of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is hearing our case, all proceedings, other than the statement of claims, are confidential. It appears hence that the few media discussions taking place are on the basis of non-attributable statements of confidential disclosures made by one of the protagonists to the dispute, hiding under the cloak of anonymity. Justice Jardeleza is thus in a fix: While he has been accused of treason, he is unable to defend himself because his role as chief counsel for the Republic forbids him to discuss matters appearing in our written memorial.

I myself rely on the disclosures published by favored media outlets of the confidential source. I do not know hence if I am accurately addressing issues raised by him.

Those who accuse Jardeleza of treason argue that he should have amended our statement of claims to include the submission that Itu Aba, although the largest of the islands in the disputed Spratly’s group of islands, is not “large enough” to be considered an island that can generate an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles. The Chinese view is that the waters within its nine-dash lines are generated by land territories including Itu Aba and Huangyang (Panatag) Shoal, among others.

The problem with this view is that it assumes that the capability of an island to generate an EEZ has to do with its size. In reality, Art. 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that an island’s entitlement to an EEZ depends on whether it can “sustain human habitation.” In turn, what seems to be controlling in this determination is not the size of an island, but whether the island can have a water source that can sustain human habitation. Internet sources have said that Itu Aba has a fresh water source.

In other words, to include the issue of whether Itu Aba can generate a mere 12 nautical miles of territorial sea or 200 nautical miles of EEZ is a double-edged sword. If Jardeleza’s detractors succeed in the argument that it can generate only 12 nautical miles because 80 hectares is not sufficient, well and good. But if the Tribunal should rule that the water source in the island is sufficient to make it habitable, then the Tribunal will confirm the Chinese view that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territories and hence, beyond the jurisdiction of the Unclos dispute settlement procedures.
The Philippine arbitral claim is anchored on Art. 286 of the Unclos covering issues of application and interpretation of the Convention intended by the international community as the ultimate constitution for seas. Both the subject matter jurisdiction of the tribunal, and its jurisdiction over the parties, depend on whether controversy resolves around maritime territory or sovereign rights and whether a party to such a dispute is a party to the Convention. Its jurisdiction does not include maritime territories generated by land territories. This is because the latter would amount to a “mixed claim,” so-called because it consists of territorial claims to both land and water, which would no longer amount to issues of interpretation or application of the law of the sea. The international law applicable to land territorial disputes are governed by the law of effectivities, or the rule that disputed land territory will be awarded to the claimant state with a superior claim to effectivities, or the exercise of effective occupation. The regime applicable to conflicting claims to maritime territories is the so-called “equitable principles that would result to an equitable solution.”

Moreover, to include Itu Aba in order to procure a declaration that China’s nine-dash lines are without legal basis may also trigger China’s specific subject matter reservation to maritime delimitation. If the Tribunal rejects the view that the island can only generate a 12-nautical mile territorial sea, then the Tribunal would inevitably have to rule where the boundary lies between Itu Aba’s and Palawan’s EEZ. This is a jurisdiction, which China specifically reserved from the jurisdiction of the Unclos dispute settlement procedures.

While China has opted not to participate in the arbitral proceedings, it has caused the publication of a book containing its objections to the jurisdiction of our Unclos arbitral tribunal on the basis that our claims are a “mixed claim” and hence beyond the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. Consistent with established litigation technique in international law, China has not addressed the merits of our claims, apparently confident that it will prevail in its preliminary objections to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.

In light of the foregoing, it appears grossly unfair to accuse Jardeleza of being a traitor for his hesitancy to include Itu Aba in our arbitral claims. There are those who have openly sided with China on this issue: A colleague in the UP College of Law who was a beneficiary of a Chinese junket and who has published that the Tribunal will dismiss our claims for lack of jurisdiction. There too are Makati-based lawyers lobbying for joint use and development with China even of undisputed territories such as Recto Bank. But Jardeleza a traitor? That’s what China wants us to think.
(Harry Roque is associate professor at the UP College of Law.)

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/77892/disputing-treason-because-of-itu-aba#ixzz3Bdc0G17m
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Roque: Jail those who paid for Northrail


Reference: Professor H. Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096

Center for International Law (Centerlaw) welcomes the inquiry by Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero into the highly anomalous Northrail Project during the budget deliberations of the Senate.

Centerlaw filed a Complaint seeking the annulment of the Contract Agreement between the North Luzon Railways Corporation (Northrail) and the China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation (CNMEC) in February 2006. Centerlaw also asked for the annulment of the Buyer Credit Loan Agreement between China Exim Bank and the Government of the Philippines.

CNMEC raised the issue of whether or not Centerlaw could question the validity of the Northrail contract all the way to the Supreme Court stating that the Contract as an Executive Agreement between the Philippine government and CNMEC.

On February 7, 2012 however, the Supreme Court disagreed with CNMEC and stated that the contract between Northrail and CNMEC is not an executive agreement and thus, could be subject of annulment proceedings. The Supreme Court then remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The case is currently pending before Regional Trial Court Branch 145, Makati City.

As of 2013, Northrail, through the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, has reversed its position on the issue of the validity of the Northrail Contract. The Department of Finance, however, through the Office of the Solicitor General continues to defend the validity of the Loan Agreement. Centerlaw however argues that since the Loan Agreement was entered into solely for the purpose of funding the Northrail Contract, the same is also invalid.

Recently, the trial court denied Centerlaw’s prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order against the Deparment of Finance’s payment of the Loan Agreement. As a result, the full $180 million has been paid to China Exim Bank as of this year.

Centerlaw Chairperson Atty. Harry Roque, who is also a Complainant in this case, welcomes the inquiries that Senator Escudero has made regarding this anomalous transaction. Roque states, “We have been after the annulment of these contracts since February 2006 and we will continue to fight until those responsible are criminally charged and jailed. The fact that the government is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for a project that has never materialized is alarming. We demand to know where this money went and why we are on the hook for it when nothing at all came of this project.”

Rep. Reyes asks SC to disqualify 3 justices from HRET


Reference: Professor H. Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096

Marinduque Representative Regina Ongsiako Reyes asked the Supreme Court today to disqualify three justices – Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta – from sitting as members of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) where she is facing a string of disqualification cases.

In her 23-page petition filed through her counsel, the Roque and Butuyan Law Offices, Reyes questioned the three justices’ continuing membership in the HRET, citing a conflict of interest on their part.

The HRET, which is chaired by Justice Velasco, is hearing three cases questioning her assumption to office as representative for Marinduque, namely (a) Case No. 13-036 (Quo Warranto), entitled Noeme Mayores Tan & Jeasseca L. Mapacpac v. Regina Ongsiako Reyes; Case No. 130037 (Quo Warranto), entitled Eric D. Junio v. Regina Ongsiako Reye; and a Petition-in-Intervention by Victor Vela Sioco.

If the HRET grants any of the petitions, it will benefit Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco, Justice Velasco’s son, Rep. Reyes’ political rival whom she beat in the May 2013 elections, earning a comfortable 52,209 votes over the latter’s 48,311 votes.

Under Section 17, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, the Senate and the House of Representatives have an electoral tribunal as the sole judge all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective Members. Each tribunal is composed of nine members, three of whom are justices of the Supreme Court designated by the Chief Justice while the rest are members of the Upper House or the Lower House, as the case may be.

Velasco, being the most senior of the three justices, chairs the HRET but has inhibited himself in the proceedings of the tribunal as well as in the proceedings of the Supreme Court involving his son’s case.

But Reyes said Velasco’s continued stay at the HRET in relation to his son’s case has become untenable.

“There has never occurred an equivalent incident in the entire history of the Supreme Court — or in any other Philippine governmental body for that matter — where a son’s desire to be awarded a Congressional seat would depend on a body headed by his own Justice-Father,” Rep. Reyes said in her 23-page Petition. “ The Supreme Court runs the risk of incurring historical infamy if it ignores this unprecedented scenario and contents itself with a complacent and run-of-the-mill inhibition by the Justice-Father from the case, even if said Justice/Father/HRET-Head still retains administrative control and moral suasion, and enjoys collegial camaraderie in the HRET.”

Reyes questioned the speed with which the HRET took up the Sioco petition-in-intervention, even if the petitioner failed to pay the required docket fees, which should have been a ground for its summary dismissal, not to mention that under the rules of the tribunal, a petition-for-intervention is not allowed.

She noted that the petition was filed on March 12, 2014 and by the next day, the HRET calendared it for discussion during its session set for March 13, 2014. Justice Velasco inhibited himself from the proceedings, with Justice Peralta taking over his duties.

Although Justice Velasco has officially inhibited himself from the cases against her, the HRET – the Members of which are not hampered from continuing their interactions with Justice Velasco in other pending HRET cases and administrative issues– is not thereby shielded from his influence, Rep. Reyes said. “By maintaining Justice Velasco as part of the HRET, that is the image that the Honorable Court projects to the public and the whole world.”

Reyes, citing jurisprudence said as the three only sit in the HRET in a designated capacity, they may be replaced anytime by the appointing authority as their designation to the tribunal is only temporary.

Rep. Reyes was proclaimed the winner by the Marinduque Provincial Board of Canvassers on 18 May 2013 and, at the time of her proclamation, no final judgment has been rendered against her for her disqualification. Likewise, no motion to suspend proclamation was filed to arrest her proclamation by, and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), has not issued an Order for the suspension of her proclamation in accordance with Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6646. To date, her proclamation has not been lawfully annulled by the only constitutional body – the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal – vested with jurisdiction over election contests, returns and qualifications of Member of the House of Representatives, including pre-proclamation controversies and annulment of proclamation.

She assumed office on 30 June 2013 and has been discharging the functions of her office since then.

Earlier, the HRET dismissed an election protest brought by the younger Velasco against Reyes

Rep. Reyes said both Justice Velasco and Justice Bersamin must admit that coming from political families, their job as part of the HRET is now hampered by questions about their impartiality to a political contest. Justice Velasco’s wife is a representative of a party-list group while his son ran against Rep. Reyes. Justice

Bersamin himself also comes from a family of Abra politicians, Rep. Reyes added, noting that he had likewise prejudged her case by voting with the majority in the petition filed by Velasco’s son before the Supreme Court which ruled in his favor. The controversial ruling of the Supreme Court in the said case has not been recognized by the House of Representatives.

“Like Caesar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure but above suspicion,” said Rep. Reyes. “A judge’s private as well as official conduct must at all times be free from all appearances of impropriety, and be beyond reproach.”

Moreover, in the case of Justice Velasco, even if he has inhibited himself in the case against Rep. Reyes, he remains the boss, head, and superior of everyone in the HRET, retains administrative control over all the operations of the Tribunal, and enjoys unavoidable camaraderie with the judicial and congressional members of the Tribunal.

“That is the only conclusion that can be made considering that, as Chairperson of the HRET, there is no way that Justice Velasco can completely detach himself from the cases involving his own son as the opponent of the Petitioner in the congressional elections in Marinduque, Rep. Reyes said.

As for Justice Peralta, Rep. Reyes said there are indications that he is equally guilty of failing to appear impartial, including the fact that he chaired the proceeding which allowed the Sioco petition-in-intervention to continue, despite its fatal flaws.

She asked the High Court to transfer Justice Velasco to the Senate Electoral Tribunal and to designate Justice Antonio T. Carpio in his stead. She also asked that Justices Bersamin and Peralta be substituted by other justices who do not suffer from the same entanglements.

Click here for a copy of the Petition For Transfer, Disqualification and/or Substitution of Justices Velasco, Jr., Peralta and Bersamin from the HRET

Re-examining freedom of expression


I have been the foremost advocate for freedom of expression, at least in the legal profession. I have always said that this freedom is ever important for it enables us to know the truth. It also enables us to form opinions, which taken collectively, have been proven in fiscalizing governments. For instance, we now know that the PDAF and DAP were never intended to benefit our people. They have been intended and used to further enrich our corrupt officials. If anything, the investigative work of journalists on PDAF and DAP has shown how crucial a vibrant press is in informing our people and in keeping our government in line.

But I have had to re-examine my advocacy for freedom of expression recently. This is because have had to reckon with the ugly side of the terrain: irresponsible journalism.

Note that days after my fellow private prosecutor in the Maguindanao massacre case, Nena Santos, claimed that Department of Justice officials were purportedly accepting bribes from the accused, the witness, Lakmudin Saliao, who, even if purportedly under the government’s Witness Protection Program, is actually under the custody of Governor Toto Mangudadatu; spoke to media, This was obviously arranged by Nena Santos herself. Purportedly the “smoking gun” to prove her allegations of bribery, Saliao then related that when he was still under the employ of the Ampatuans, he gave Atty Sigfrid Fortun the amount of P50 million, 20 million of which was to be paid to Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, and the balance of P30 million to be paid to the rest of the public prosecutors.

In the mind of Santos, this disclosure proved that Baraan was indeed on the take. The only problem was that Saliao, as one of the government’s star witnesses in the Ampatuan trial itself, was testifying on matters which occurred in 2009 and 2010 prior to the PNoy administration. Baraan only joined government as part of the PNoy administration. Hence, contrary to what Saliao is saying, Baraan could not have received P20 million since he was not yet in government at the time of the alleged payoff.

So when Ces Orena-Drilon came to my temporary office in the UP College of Law to show me a PDF file of an alleged diary listing personalities which she concluded were lists of individuals having received money form the Ampatuans, my remark to her was: “Ces, you’re the only one who still believes Nena Santos.” It was at that juncture that Ces then said that her informant was different from Nena Santos although she admitted that she met this informant through Nena Santos. Nena would later lie on national televisions and say that she does not know the informant.

I even explained to her that Nena was obviously on the warpath after she was found lying. But Ces was persistent. She then showed me an entry of a phone number, which corresponded to mine -next to the word “speedy”. Another entry had the notation “Speedy 10 M and a car”.

Asked for my reaction, I first explained that the since the diary was provided by an informant who did not prepare the diary, the same was not authenticated. I then said that while the number corresponds to my cell phone, my number is a very public number since it appears in all my press releases, my blog and FB entries, I do not know any “speedy” and do not know why it appears next to my number.

But lo and behold, in the newscast for that evening, it was reported that I received P10 million and a car since I was using the alias “Speedy”.

I am sure that those who know me will not believe this allegation. How do you explain the fact that unlike Nena Santos who has not presented a single witness in the Ampatuan prosecution, we have not only been active in presenting our witnesses (about 35) in the massacre case itself but have field 23 other actions against the Ampatuans? This included the plunder case against the Ampatuans, actions to freeze their assets with the Anti-Money Laundering Council, a separate civil case against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her complicity in the murder, separate criminal charges against the military officials in the area and international remedies for the victims. And unlike Nena Santos and Prima Quinsayas who are paid for their services, we have been doing our work against the Ampatuans on a pro-bono basis. It is strange that I – who have been working for free in these cases for five long years -was the one maligned as having received money from the same individuals who have in turn, sued me at least 14 times either in the form of contempt petitions or libel in their turf of Cotabato City.

Today, I am in the process of re-examining my advocacy for freedom of expression. I represent today the most number of journalists accused of libel and other families of journalists who have been killed and have not been accorded domestic remedies for their murders. We also continue our advocacy to decriminalize libel. But when a very senior journalist, a graduate of the same state university where I am a full professor, resorts to abuse of the right to a free press, one cannot wonder now if my lifelong passion in defending this freedom is indeed a noble pursuit.

I continue to dwell on it.

This post first appeared in http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/08/14/re-examining-freedom-of-expression/

Centerlaw : FFFJ Counsel grossly misunderstands SC Resolution on First In First Out


PRESS STATEMENT
Reference: Professor Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096

Centerlaw: FFFJ Counsel Atty. Prima Jesusa Quinsayas is Guilty of Professional Negligence for her Failure to Comprehend the “First-In-First-Out Rule” issued by the Supreme Court in the Ampatuan Case

We at the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) express our grave alarm at the failure of certain Private Prosecutors in the Maguindanao Massacre to comprehend a Supreme Court Resolution which aims to speed up the trial of the multiple murder cases.

We refer specifically to what we have called by shorthand as the “First-in-First-Our Rule” (FIFO) approved by the High Court for the Maguindanao Massacre trial.

For the record, it was Centerlaw through the Roque & Butuyan Law Offices that first proposed FIFO. Simply, under FIFO, the court may already render judgment on the case of any accused over whom all evidence – for and against – has already been heard.

The rationale is that the families of victims and the accused do not have to wait for the evidence concerning 194 Accused to be heard by the court to achieve justice, which could take a long, long, long time.

This is the fair rule respecting due process for both the families of the victim and the Accused.

Thus in the Motion for the adoption by the trial court of the First-in-First Our Rule we filed on December 5, 2011 with the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 trying the multiple murder cases, we said in part:

2. The extraordinary difficult nature of this case behooves this Honorable Court to consider the wisdom of providing closure to the proceedings with respect to some accused.

3. As to some accused against whom the Prosecution has already completed presenting its evidence in chief, after the Prosecution’s filling of its formal offer of evidence with respect to these accused, there is consequently a need to direct the corresponding defense counsels to present their defense evidence.

4. There is nothing in the Rules that prohibits this Honorable Court from so moving; but there is every reason, in the name of procedural and substantive due process for both the Accused and the heirs of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, to finish
as soon as possible.

5. It goes against every sense of reason and justice to keep everyone in this case waiting until evidence has been presented for and against all 196 Accused, before the court resolves all the cases.

At the time we filed the Motion, we said that of the 196 Accused , only 93 have been arrested. Of those arrested, only 64 had been arraigned. Meanwhile 70 witnesses have been heard in the last two years of the trial as to the 64 Accused.

We noted in the Motion that under the ordinary rules of Philippine criminal procedure, the rule is that an Accused is entitled to confront and cross-examine all his Accusers in court.

This would mean that there will be a constant recall to the witness stand of all witnesses already presented each time there is a newly-arrested and newly-arraigned Accused. Assuming that each of the 103 unarrested Accused claims the right to cross-examine their Accusers one by one, by this measure, it would take a new series of cross-examinations at least 200 years to complete.

We said that none of the international tribunals of contemporary times – even those for cases of mass slaughter where the victims number by the hundreds, if not by the thousands – has resorted to wholesale prosecution of suspects.

“Ultimately, such an approach works against the interests of justice, because of the protracted litigation it entails that could take years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years to wrap up,” we said in the 8-page motion.

For the record, other than by lawyers of the Center for International Law, the Motion proposing the FIFO rule was also signed by the Deputy Regional Prosecutor Peter L. Medalle, Senior State Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia L. Victorio, and Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva.

Atty. Nena Santos and Atty. Prima Quinsayas did not join the Motion.

The regional trial court hearing the case rejected the proposal, but the Supreme Court subsequently adopted our proposal by issuing a Resolution to institutionalize it and to direct the trial court to implement it.

In paragraphs (2) and (3) OF A.M, No.10-11-5-SC, the Supreme Court thus directed Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes

“…to hold, based on her discretion separate trials for the accused against whom the prosecution contemplates no further evidence and thereby order such accused to present their evidence and, accordingly, have the case submitted for decision with respect to them; provided, that this paragraph is without prejudice to the application of rules on demurrer to evidence or other modes of terminating a case in advance of a full trial.

…to issue, when appropriate, separate decisions or resolutions for issues which are ripe for resolution in any of the 58 cases being heard without waiting for the completion of the presentation of the evidence for all the accused.”

The Resolution of the Supreme Court on FIFO is very clear. It so disturbing and bothersome that the counsel hired by the FFFJ Atty. Prima Quinsayas and Atty. Nena Santos for that matter fail to understand the same.

Atty. Quinsayas equates FIFO with any of the following: (1) the accused first on trial would be the one whose case would first be resolved (2) the Accused first to be arraigned to be the one whose case would first be resolved, and (3) first to file a Petition for Bail would be the one whose case would first be resolved

She said as much in two statements she signed and posted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on the latter’s Ampatuan Trial Watch blog.

The first statement, posted on August 4, 2014 entitled, “Private Prosecutor: resting in ‘evidence-in-chief’ does not reflect ‘first in, first out’ principle” said:

“…FFFJ legal counsel Prima Jesusa Quinsayas said that resting in ‘evidence-in-chief’ before the resolution of bail petitions in the Ampatuan (Maguindanao) Massacre trial does not reflect the ‘first in, first out’ system. Quinsayas pointed out that the list of the 28 accused for whom state prosecutors intend to rest their case in both the bail petitions and ‘evidence-in-chief’ does not show that they were among the first arrested, arraigned or the first to file a bail petition.” (emphasis supplied).

The second statement, quoting Atty. Quinsayas and posted on August 8, 2014, and entitled “FFFJ counsel: clarifications on points raised by Atty. Harry Roque,” said:

“My understanding of the concept is that the accused first put on trial would be the one whose case would first be resolved. But whether it’s First to be Arraigned, or First to File a Petition for Bail, the list does not reflect any of those. Thus based on the list of the 28 accused, his reason for supporting the partial resting in evidence-in-chief does not hold.”

Obviously, Atty. Quinsayas totally misread what the Supreme Court said because in this second statement, she also says that “as for the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for the criminal proceedings of the massacre, the ‘First In First Out’ as a term does not appear in the said guidelines. Instead, the guidelines allow separate trials for the accused if so decided by the trial judge based on her discretion.”

Exactly. First-in-First-Out:

“…to hold, based on her discretion separate trials for the accused against whom the prosecution contemplates no further evidence and thereby order such accused to present their evidence and, accordingly, have the case submitted for decision with respect to them; provided, that this paragraph is without prejudice to the application of rules on demurrer to evidence or other modes of terminating a case in advance of a full trial.

…to issue, when appropriate, separate decisions or resolutions for issues which are ripe for resolution in any of the 58 cases being heard without waiting for the completion of the presentation of the evidence for all the accused.”[emphasis supplied]

Essentially, the High Court approved our proposal as contained in our Motion asking the trial court to adopt the First-in-First Out Rule in the trial of the cases.

It is highly disturbing to us that Attorneys Santos and Quinsayas have seriously jeopardized the prosecution of the case by their professionally negligent blunder.
In their gross error they have likewise arrogantly issued public statements that questioned without any basis the integrity of the work of the panel of public prosecutors and their fellow private prosecutors.

We call on organizations constituting the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) to re-examine the professional competence of Atty. Quinsayas. We even invite these organizations to refer the interpretation of Atty. Quinsayas on the FIFO rule to their respective independent counsels for objective evaluation purposes.

As we have shown, her pointed and unfounded attacks on the integrity of the work of the public prosecutors betray her uncomprehending incompetence. Unwittingly, she has not only placed in serious risk the case of the other victims being prosecuted by other private prosecutors, but also those of victims being supported by the FFFJ as an organization.

H. Harry L. Roque, Jr.
Joel Ruiz Butuyan
Romel Regalado Bagares
Gilbert T. Andres
Ethel C. Avisado
Geepee Aceron Gonzales

Please click here for a copy of the Motion for First in First Out filed December 5, 2011 and the Supreme Court Resolution dated December 10, 2013