The AFP’s filing of disbarment charges against me yesterday is anti-climactic to their repeated threats that they would do so for the past ten days. I welcome it and will answer it in due course. I hope that with its filing, the AFP can now concentrate on running after the Abu Sayyaf and defending our territory in the West Philippine Sea. I am flattered that the AFP gave me so much attention in the face of the many concerns that it faces.
As I have previously stated, I will also file graft and administrative charges against the AFP for allowing Joseph Scott Pemberton to remain in US custody in Aguinaldo. This is contrary to Philippine sovereignty and hence, a breach of the oath of allegiance that officers and men of the AFP took. This is also dereliction of duty.
That the Philippines should have custody over Pemberton is pursuant to the VFA’s provision that the Philippines should have primary jurisdiction over non-service related offenses committed by American servicemen. This is also apparent in the provisions that the Americans “may request to have custody” of their servicemen “from time of the commission of an offense”, which obviously contemplates that the person of an American serviceman should be in the custody of our authorities. This is also consistent with the definition of jurisdiction, which is the legal competence to enforce and prescribe conduct. Without custody over the person of the accused, police authorities cannot conduct the requisite investigation, which forms the basis for the filing of Information in court. The AFP’s failure to have custody over Pemberton is why we do not have the fingerprints, DNA samples, and physical examination of the suspect, all of which are basic physical evidence.
I will also hold the AFP liable for contempt since to publicly announce the filing of disbarment against an officer of the court is to ridicule the administration of justice in this country. All such proceedings are supposed to be confidential. Recently, the Supreme Court fined Prima Quinsayas, collaborating counsel of Nena Santos, the Mangundadatu counsel, in the Ampatuan prosecution for making public their disbarment complaint against Atty. Sigfrid Fortun.
I assure the public that the AFP will not cow me. I will continue to fight for my clients’ interests with even more zeal knowing that Philippine state agents have sided with foreign interests. I will also continue to assert Philippine sovereignty. This is my duty as a member of the Bar and as a Filipino. My promise: I shall return to Aguinaldo should there be a need for me to personally take custody of Pemberton in order to turn him over to Philippine authorities less subservient to the United States.
I will file all my complaints against the AFP as soon as I return from Europe where I am attending Council of Europe and UNESCO meetings on the killing of journalists. Ironically, experts have identified the AFP as amongst the perpetrators of killings against our journalists.
As I write this, I have just asked three questions to Secretary Leila De Lima on the killing of journalists. First, how different is Administrative Order 35 form other Inter-agency committees created by PGMA to deal with extralegal killings which Philip Aston dismissed as insufficient to discharge state obligations to protect and promote the life to life?
Second, why has the government not complied with Ampatuan massacre victims rights, under human rights law, to satisfaction and compensation?
Third, what steps has the Philippine government taken to implement the Human Rights Committee view that criminal libel is contrary to freedom of expression?
De Lima answered as follows, to my chagrin:
One, AO 35 is different from PGMA’s Task Force Usig and Task Force 211 because it is composed of high-level cabinet members and entail cooperation between the police and the prosecutors even if she acknowledged that the current conviction rate for extralegal killings remains at 1%.
Anent the view on libel, she said that there are now pending bills in Congress decriminalizing libel.
De Lima’s answers were politely taken by an audience dominated by advocates for media rights. They were, however, dismissed as being unacceptable by all whom I talked to. One participant remarked that De Lima’s statements, particularly denying the Maguindanao victims their right to satisfaction and compensation, is why there is impunity in the Philippines. Another, a former Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights committee who admired De Lima when she appeared before the Committee, expressed surprise why a person knowledgeable in human rights could publicly claim ignorance of an apparent state obligation.
A more radical participant wanted to slam her.
All told, the Philippine government’s sending of Leila De Lima to the forum was an obvious attempt to bolster the standing of the Philippines in the eyes of the international human rights community. Unfortunately, a messenger can only do so much. The substance has to be provided by the President and his administration. Here, PNOY is clearly wanting.
This post first appeared on November 6, 2014 at http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/11/06/the-afp-s-complaint-and-secretary-de-lima/