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Maguindanao massacre

Binay is still on top

The reality is that despite his detractors having thrown the kitchen sink at him, Vice President Jejomar Binay remains the top choice of the country for the Presidency in 2016.

This hardly comes as a surprise given his proven managerial skills as chief executive of the country’s financial center, and his credentials as a lawyer, a humans rights advocate, housing czar, and as a person who genuinely came from the ranks of the poor. Binay’s very high ratings- despite the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Annex and the so-called Hacienda Binay -is a testament that the people have clearly made up their minds on his fitness for the country’s highest post.

It is also proof of what I warned his detractors about before: it is not enough to destroy a person’s reputation. The people will demand that those who seek higher office prove their own credentials. Clearly, the negligible 3 percent received by my friend Senator Alan Cayetano indicates that the voters are casually asking him: if you are offering yourselves as the alternative to Binay, prove that you have what it takes to succeed. Judging by the single percentage support that Cayetano received from the people, he clearly has to move on to something more constructive to be more acceptable to the voters.

Despite the fact that Binay is still on top, one has to acknowledge that perhaps the biggest gainer in the recent survey is Senator Grace Poe. I have always been fond of Grace Poe. While we missed her in the fight against the cheater President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, I was happy when she surfaced to continue the fight that her father had started. The fact that she landed first in the last elections is a testament that our voters want to make amends to the late Fernando Poe Jr. Clearly, the electorate has rewarded her for the heartbreak and the injustice that her father suffered in the hands of Garci et al.

But Grace Poe is not just a factotum of her father. Already, she has begun to prove her mettle with her Senate investigation against PNP Chief Alan Purisima, her authorship of the Freedom of Information bill, and her Senate hearings on poverty.

I had the pleasure of seeing her in action when she invited me as a resource person on a piece of legislation that would declare the anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre as Press Freedom Day. She appeared well versed in the draft legislation, astute in her perceptions, and probing in her questions. She is clearly walking the talk when she said that she has shelved any immediate plans for higher office so she can be the best in her current role as senator. I have no doubts that after 2016, Grace Poe may be destined to be the next President of the Republic.

Meanwhile, and I have long advocated for this, I hope to see “Binay na Poe for 2016”. They would be an unbeatable tandem. Let’s hope that those who cheated Poe’s father and belittled him when he was alive will not interfere with her natural political maturity and cajole her into seeking the Presidency in 2016, even before she is able to learn the ropes of governance.

If there’s a biggest winner, there’s also a biggest loser. This clearly is the administration bet, Mar Roxas. I do not know what happened to Mar. I myself was for him until former President Cory Aquino’s sudden demise and destined PNoy for the presidency. At this point, Mar should gather his old guards and have an honest assessment of where he went wrong. Let’s face it, Mar should have scored more than 6 percent after his cohorts in the Senate launched their witch hunt against Binay. Full stop.

The good Justice Ingles

I intentionally left out from my column last week the highlight of the Manila Summit on Judicial Integrity and Accountability. This was not because he was not newsworthy. On the contrary, he was the highlight of the event.

Justice Gabriel T. Ingles is one of the few magistrates that has refused to receive allowances from either the City or the Province of Cebu. This is equivalent to no less than P64,000 monthly in allowances. He has refused the allowances on the basis that it would compromise his judicial independence since the city and the province could have cases with the Court of Appeals.

Considering that a Justice’s full salary amounts to no more than P125,000 per month, this means that Justice Ingles has given up effectively a third of what he could be earning to uphold judicial independence. To the skeptic who thinks that our society is hopeless insofar as corruption, and lack of accountability on the part of our public officers, think again. Justice Ingles is indeed a beacon of hope that the struggle for integrity and accountability could still be realized.

Kudos to the truly good Justice!

This post first appeared in http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/12/11/binay-is-still-on-top/.

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 Statement on the Maguindanao Massacre Prosecution

Centerlaw supports the public prosecutors in their decision to rest the case against the 28 accused last March 4. Centerlaw, an affiliate of Media Legal Defence – Southeast Asia, represents families of 13 media victims and 2 other civilian victims. With this decision to rest, the prosecution panel has completed its role in presenting evidence against the accused, and the case can move on to the next stage, with the defense presenting their evidence.

According to Centerlaw Chairperson Harry Roque, “With a panel this large, and with all the pressure that goes with prosecuting the “Trial of the Century”, it is to be expected that there will be differences in opinions, theories and strategies. We would like to assure the public that whatever issues there may be within the panel, everyone’s goal is the same: to ensure the conviction of those accused of murdering 58 people.”

Private Prosecutor Gilbert Andres adds, “We fully support the DOJ prosecution panel. The members are doing everything within their power to get a conviction in this case. We enjoin other private prosecutors to submit their constructive suggestions on how to hasten the proceedings. We cannot afford to have a third change of panels. We welcome the decision to rest the case as this means that we can even have an early verdict against one of the principal accused – Andal Ampatuan, Jr.”

The recent Memorandum from the Supreme Court approved Centerlaw’s proposals to expedite the trial, among them “First in, First out”. This will allow Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to decide the case against the accused as soon as the evidence presentation is finished against them, which will hasten the proceedings. Among the 28 accused whose cases have been rested is Andal Ampatuan, Jr., an alleged mastermind and shooter during the massacre.

Centerlaw further confirms that during a meeting held in January 2014, the public and private prosecutors had discussed the impending resting of the case against some of the accused. #

P Noy: Why have thou forsaken us?

I wondered what P Noy would say in this year’s SONA about the Maguindanao massacre and other cases of extralegal killings in the country. Since becoming President, he has consistently said something about this malaise. This may be because when he still seeking the people’s mandate, he sought an audience with our clients and promised […] More →

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 →

New Encounter with Ampatuan Suspects

From our informant on the ground: another Pvt armies of d Ampatuan headd by a person known as Kagi Daynga (KD) raidd by CIDG-PNP backup by AFP at Sarip Aguak, Mgd dis morning. KD & his group resisted but he died. encuentro stil going on as of dis time. per raw info: dead c Kagi […] More →

SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO HASTEN THE “TRIAL OF THE CENTURY”

As we commemorate TODAY the third year anniversary of the ghastly Ampatuan massacre, let me reiterate my proposals to hasten the prosecution of the so-called trial of the century: 1.    For Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas- Resolve with dispatch our pending administrative cases against 62 policemen who were also charged criminally for the […] More →

The nerve of Hun Sen

The nerve of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to say that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has opted not to internationalize the West Philippine Sea dispute! The group in fact approved no such resolution.  If at all, Asean has failed to make any stand on the matter. But this is not to say that […] More →

A blow to freedom of the press

In an en banc resolution signed by its clerk of court, the Supreme Court reversed itself on the issue of live media coverage of the Ampatuan massacre case. In its earlier decision, the court belittled the accused’s argument that live coverage will imperil his right to be presumed innocent since it will amount to a […] More →

UP Law 1990 and Judicial Affidavits

You have to give it to Mark Meruenas of GMA news online. Of the ten or so reporters covering the Maguindanao massacre, only he reported that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s latest judicial reform, the use of judicial affidavits, has been practiced in the controversial case involving the gruesome death of 58 victims. In 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 →