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Whitewash and the need for the ICC

Its highly unlikely that attention-starved congressmen will agree to scrap the House of Representatives hearing of the Mamasapano massacre on their own.

To begin with, while the hearings in the bigger House were less composed when compared to the hearings in the Senate, more information came out of the lone House investigation.

Rep. Neri Colmenares singled out some of these new information, to wit: “a) the text message of Gen. Rustico Guerrero confirming that Pres. Aquino knew about the Mamasapano incident earlier on January 25, (b) the admission by Gen. Napeñas that Pres. Aquino knew about the time on target coordination and approved it which means Aquino agreed not to coordinate with the AFP beforehand, (c) the claim to executive privilege of Gen. Purisima, (d) the Medico Legal report emotionally described by Gen. Espina; and (e) the admission by Gen. Catapang that he did not inform Pres. Aquino even if they were together in Zamboanga that day”.

So why did the House suspend its hearing? The official reason is to avoid “prejudicial conclusions” since the official Board of Inquiry findings still have to be written.

But that reasoning is crap. Congress is never bound by the findings of any other investigative body. When Congress conducts an inquiry in aid of legislation, it is in the exercise of a plenary power that cannot be limited by any other branch of government. What is a legislative in purpose is also within the powers of Congress to define.

Moreover, Congress may also conduct investigations in the discharge of its power of oversight, that is, as holder of the power of the purse, it should ensure that government agencies are doing their job pursuant to the budget allotted to them. Hence, it was but proper that Congress inquire on whether the PNP, the AFP and the DILG spent tax payers wisely and correctly in this bloody police operation.

So why did the House suspend it proceedings? I think the truth is obvious. The PNoy administration, including its allies in the House of Representatives, are now afraid of the truth. Already, the subsequent Senate hearings on the matter indicate that the President clearly knew about the plan to capture Marwan et al in Mamasapano, that he continued to utilize the services of the suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima in connection therewith, and that confidentiality was required because they knew that even the AFP, with its leadership committed to the Peace talks with the MILF, might leak information that may prove detrimental to the capture of the high value targets.

Questions are now being asked on when the President knew that the SAF 44 were under siege. The question which has not been asked is why the President did not order the AFP to provide reinforcement to the besieged 55th Company of the SAF and why? Many, including I, surmise that the President, like AFP Chief of Staff Catapang, played God and decided to sacrifice the lives of the SAF 44 in order to protect the ceasefire with the MILF.

There too is the question of why US operatives were involved in the operation beyond the giving of the $6 million bounty for Marwan, dead or alive. While many shrug off the American involvement as necessary since we do not have the technology to acquire the proper intelligence information required by the operation, the reality is that the 1987 Constitution prohibits even just the presence of foreign troops, bases and facilities in the country after the termination of the US-Philippine Bases Agreement in 1991. The only way these foreign troops can be in the country is through a treaty duly concurred not by a mere majority of the members of our Senate , but by 2/3 of all its members, and even ratified by the plebiscite by the people themselves, when so required by the Senate. And these stringent requirements is only for the purpose of allowing foreign troops, bases and facilities in our territory. Compliance with the imperative requirements is not even sufficient to allow foreigners to be engaged in actual police or battle operations in our country. Such is absolutely prohibited because such an involvement would simply violate both Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction. Full stop.

So what now? The House has suspended its hearing and the senators, on the other hand, appear complicit in hiding the truth from the people by holding its hearings in “executive sessions”. Clearly, the Senate, in doing so, although clearly more independent than the House, appears to be susceptible nonetheless to palace cajoling to keep the truth from the people.

I have said from the beginning that where political considerations, both of the selfish and the policy types, i.e., the necessity of proceeding with the peace talks, come into the way of the fight against impunity, the country must utilize the full benefits its membership in the International Criminal Court. The Court was established, and we joined the Court, precisely because those who violate the most important norms of international law, such as those who commit war crimes, should be prosecuted, no matter what. The ICC prosecutor, would moreover, have the proven expertise to investigate these possible war crimes when compared to the DOJ Prosecutors that has zero experience in this regard. Besides, with the Maguindanao massacre prosecution in limbo after almost six years, coupled with the DOJ’s 1-percent conviction rate in the prosecution of extra-legal killings, its clear that our legal system is simply both unable and unwilling to investigate the leadership and men of the MILF for the possible war crimes committed against the SAF44 and the Filipino people.

Time to seek aid from the international community. Lets refer the Mamasapano massacre to the ICC!

Statement of Professor Harry L. Roque, Jr. and the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) Philippines on allegation of bribery

Reference: Professor Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096

This current scandal has the sole purpose of destroying the prosecution and derailing the conviction of the Ampatuans. I will not fall into it. I will not allow myself to be used as a tool in this attempt to derail.

In this fight to bring justice to the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre, we are up against somebody who has all the resources to do everything to derail the case and prevent the conviction of the Ampatuans. We will not be derailed.

Since they came up with this story about bribes, I ask the police, the NBI, the Ombudsman, and the AMLA and all the proper authorities to resolve these accusations because this should not get in the way of our mission. Our mission is to bring justice to the massacred journalist and the other Ampatuan victims.

While investigation is being done, I will continue prosecuting the cases against the Ampatuans. This is for the cause of press freedom, this is for the mission. I want justice for the victims.

Our mission is to give the Ampatuan victims swift justice. People say that the trial will take more than 10 years to finish. We want justice now. This is our mission for the fallen journalists and the civilian victims of the massacre.

I expect more ploys to derail us, but I assure the victims that we will be steadfast in our mission and we will deliver the justice that the victims deserve. To the victims, we have a strong case, we will obtain convictions against the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes.

Allan and Chiz : Walk the Talk

Unlike Butch Abad about whom I wrote last week, both Senators Alan Cayetano and Chiz Escudero were known to me during the anti-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo days.

I had the privilege of working with both of them in the three impeachment complaints that we filed against Arroyo. PNoy, then their colleague at the House of Representatives, was with us. But the acknowledged brains and spokesman for the impeachment team were Escudero and Cayetano, respectively.

Chiz Escudero was minority floor leader when we filed the first impeachment complaint. Unlike Alan whom I knew only in the course of the impeachment, I have known Chiz since high school in UP Integrated School, although I was three years ahead of him. The task of dealing with the dubious Oliver Lozano bogus impeachment complaint fell on his shoulder, this despite that he and Lozano belonged to the same fraternity.

Alan Cayetano was my best yield from the ill-fated impeachment complaint. While the complaint was thrown out by Arroyo loyalist Edcel Lagman on the basis of “a prejudicial question” which was that the first Lozano complaint, bogus as it was, barred the filing of our substantive complaint. My involvement in the impeachment process gave me a true friend in the person of Senator Cayetano. We may not have reached second base in the sui generis process of the impeachment, but Alan was to shine nationally courtesy of his eloquence and his one-liners.

I have nothing but utmost respect for these two honorable Senators. They are without doubt, men of principle, and both have proven that they adhere to the highest ideal of justice and public accountability.

How do I feel now that we hear that Napoles allegedly paid them off? Like the rest of their supporters, I was very disappointed and sad.

There seems to be a substantial difference between the entanglements of the two senators with the PDAF queen. In Cayetano’s case, it was the uncle, whom everyone knows is the political adviser of the senator, who allegedly received but returned a sum of money because they wanted a bigger percentage. In the case of Escudero, it was alleged that Napoles contributed to his campaign kitty. The difference is, if Napoles is to be believed, that Cayetano’s bribery was frustrated allegedly because his camp wanted a bigger percentage of the loot, while Escudero may have benefited from the scam without probably being aware if it.

Nonetheless, their names have been dragged into the scandal. No longer are both of them the epitome of new politics that they were during the challenging anti-PGMA days.

Am I surprised that even the most idealistic politicians have been dragged into the mess?

Not really. The nature of PDAF as an institutional source of corruption has been widely known since Yvonne Chua and Ellen Tordesillas wrote about it as early as the 1990s. This means that all politicians, even the most progressive, benefitted from institutional corruption for as long as they accepted and/or utilized their pork barrel. That is why only Ping Lacson stands on moral high ground since he is the only one (possibly Joker Arroyo, as well) who refused to accept his pork barrel. So the thought that both Cayetano and Escudero benefited from institutional corruption does not come as a surprise, at least to me.

Be that as it may, the fact that they were dragged into this pork scandal is still depressing, I know both gentlemen as true nationalists. They are competent, and winnable. The two, either individually or together, could very well redefine personality based and feudalistic Philippine politics into an issue and solution based multi-sectoral discussion. While party lists Bayan Muna and Akbayan (during their pre-PNoy collaboration for the latter) have been articulating well the need for progressive politics, Alan and Chiz have also been doing this and still win in the game—something that Bayan and Rissa Hontiveros have failed to do.

Is all lost for these two young beacons of hope?

Most certainly not. But the beginning should be utmost transparency from both of them. Alan here has a bit of an advantage since he never received money from Napoles, even if it is for the wrong reason. He should probably use this opportunity to clean his own backyard and get rid of nepotism within his own camp. This should mean retirement for his uncle.

Chiz, on the other hand, should just come clean since the only allegation against him is that he received campaign funds from Napoles. He probably did on his first run for Congress when as a member of the opposition, there was truly a dearth of campaign funds for those who opposed Mrs. Arroyo. But he has to come clean and be honest in this regard.

I also personally know that both senators have been utilizing the same contractor from the South, notorious also for paying SOPs to his legislator principals. Perhaps, as part of their re-birth in Philippine politics, they should both shun this practice of favoring contractors whom Chua and Tordesillas claim will in turn, pay kickbacks to the legislators. This entire scheme explains the sad state of our public infrastructure.

Not all is lost for these two brilliant statesmen. But they have to walk the talk. They have to practice new politics and not just play lip service to it.

AMPATUAN VICTIMS TO SEEK REDRESS WITH UN COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS. 14 Victims signed authority to negotiate a settlement with Ampatuans

On the occasion of the 43rd month commemoration of the Ampatuan massacre, Prof. Harry Roque, Chairman of the Center for International Law and Private Prosecutor of 17 media victims of the massacre, announced that their clients will resort to a filing of a communication with the United Nations Human Rights Committee for the Philippine government’s […] More →

Lessons from Boston

Lessons from Boston. Copadoccia, Turkey—I was in Boston with my family just two weeks ago. I thought it was important for my two children to visit the city and appreciate its anti-colonial heritage. The US was not always its own state. It too had to struggle for its independence, much in the same way that […] More →

Top ten issues for human rights in 2012

Here’s my choice for the top ten most important developments for Human Rights in the Philippines for 2012: 1. Passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law. Unfortunately, the passage of this law was overshadowed by the passage of the Reproductive Health Law. I say unfortunate because unlike the RH Law which in jurisprudence says is a […] More →

The one hundred and second

545 views Good news to the families of the 58 victims of the infamous Maguindanao massacre. Shortly after the 1000th day anniversary of the massacre, Datu Ulo Ampatuan, brother of recently arrested and injured Ipeh Ampatuan, son of Anwar Ampatuan, grandson of Andal Ampatuan Sr, became the 102nd suspect to finally be apprehended for the […] More →

Statement of Atty. Harry Roque on behalf of clients following speech of client Mrs. Myrna Reblando before the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club

Statement of Atty. Harry Roque on behalf of clients following speech of client Mrs. Myrna Reblando before the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club Ref: 09175398096 I have discovered inadvertently last year, through a Hong Kong-based lawyer, that Mrs. Myrna Reblando is being processed in Hong Kong for asylum to another country. The information given to […] More →

Probity and discounts

Sometimes, a fumble can lead to a win. This was what happened two days ago at the Senate in the impeachment hearing of Chief Justice Renato Corona. On Monday, we were enthralled by a declaration that the chief justice was given a whopping 40-percent discount amounting to P10 million by Megaworld. I was then an […] More →

The wrong IBP statement

Was both sad and disappointed when the Integrated Bar of the Philippines took the stand that the impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona was an affront to the independence on the Judiciary. Sad because I hold the IBP very dearly, having served as its Presidential Assistant for Human Rights for two years during the incumbency […] More →

What next GMA and P Noy?

At long last, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was finally charged in Court. While it took P Noy more than 500 days to do so, it took just the possibility of her flight to get P Noy’s people moving to charge her. Absent this Information in the Regional Trial Court of Pasay, GMA would have been able […] More →


I am one of those disturbed by the recent order of the Supreme Court to reopen a final and executory decision ruling that the dismissal of 1,200 Philippine Airlines flight attendants was illegal. I too, find this decision—made in response to a letter of the lawyer of one the richest men in the world—to be […] More →

VIP treatment

It happened last Thursday, the day when this column is regularly published. The prosecution has at least four witnesses ready, three of whom we were going to present as private prosecutors. While Cipriana Gatchalian, wife of slain journalists Santos “Jun” Gatchalian was scheduled to testify, Joseph Jubelag was not. Joseph could have been the 33rd […] More →

Press Freedom?

Yesterday was the occasion for the world to celebrate Press Freedom Day. As if to mark it, but with no prior plans, yesterday also marked the termination of the hearings in connection with the preliminary investigation for the murder of slain Palawan broadcaster, “Doc Gerry Ortega”. I was taken back with what Dr. Patty Ortega, […] More →

Meeting of two presidents

I was witness to a historic meeting between two presidents: President Noynoy Aquino and Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court, last Monday at Malacañang’s “yellow room”. Since the year 2000, the Philippines, under then-President Joseph Estrada, signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This is the first permanent international tribunal […] More →

Philippines Get Poor Marks in Rule of Law Index

The Philippines received very poor to poor marks in the World Justice Project’s “Rule of Law Index”. The Index, according to the report, is “a new quantitative assessment tool designed to offer a comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice”. According to the report, the Philippines […] More →