Today is Christmas. Merry Christmas to one and all! I don’t know if you got what you wanted from Santa. I would not know myself until after this column is published. But what were in your Christmas list? Here’s what’s on mine:
1. Verdict for the Ampatuan clan in the Maguindanao massacre case. Five years is a terribly long time to wait for the victims of the single most deadly attack on journalists. Given the country’s track record of a measly 1% conviction rate for extralegal killings, to see anyone convicted for the massacre would indeed be a feat! I do not know if Judge Jocelyn Solis would convict anyone, but whatever her decision may be, we have certainly made it possible for her to render a verdict this year against some, if not all, the members of the Ampatuan clan. We did this through the first-in-first-out proposal which two of our fellow private prosecutors in the case continue to reject. Under our adopted and implemented proposal, we could finish presentation of evidence against some of the accused and need not await termination of evidence against all of the accused. Under this system, both Andal Sr and Zaldy Ampatuan have concluded presentation of their own evidence. We expect Andal Jr aka Unsay, to commence with his this coming February, at the latest. Please, Santa… put an end to this proceedings by having verdicts against some of the accused this 2015.
2. Verdict against Joseph Scott Pemberton for the Laude slaying. Unlike the Ampatuan case, which has dragged on, Pemberton’s case should be finished on or before December 14, 2015. Otherwise, he walks. While I have been opposed to the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, perhaps the only redeeming feature of the latter is the mandate that the criminal prosecution against an American serviceman should be concluded within a non-extendable period of one year from the time of initiation of judicial proceedings. The ramification for default of this rule is that the GI, Pemberton in this case, walks. He is free to leave the country and forever escape the wheels of justice. Is there a possibility this will happen? Well of course! Already, the Regional Trial Court has granted Pemberton’s petition to suspend proceedings while his Petition for Review against the finding of probable case is being heard by the Department of Justice. In fact, Pemberton has been granted a stay for 60 days or two months. Given that we’ve lost already two weeks because of the Christmas holidays, this means we only have 9 and half months to conclude presentation of evidence. In reality, this should be eight and a half months given public holidays and typhoon triggered work suspensions, In other words, good luck to us in completing presentation of evidence for 8 and half months! Hence, this wish to Santa!
3. Denial of the government’s motion for reconsideration on the Disbursement Acceleration Program- Dante Jimenez of the VACC lamented in a text message that the recently signed three trillion budget for 2015 includes an increased budget for the judiciary which PNoy promised in the presence of the Chief Justice. Many pundits interpreted this promise as Malacañang’s way of swaying the court to reconsider its ruling against the DAP. The stakes for Malacañang in this case appears to be very high. For unless the ruling is reconsidered the decisions itself is a justification to convict the President and his cabinet members who implemented the DAP- liable for malversation of public funds. Hence, this wish to Santa that the Court remains independent in the face of Malacañang’s determination to sway it any which way;
4. For the whistleblower in the Evangelista torture case to testify. Many have forgotten Darius Evangelista who was tortured and believed murdered by members of the Philippine National Police in the latter’s Tondo police detachment. Well, the torture captured on a cell phone video, caused worldwide condemnation as the world saw how a string was tied to Darius’s private parts and pulled to cause excruciating physical pain. This case remains the only torture case that has been filed in court. And already, it has become apparent that the whistle blower who took the video should testify in order to authenticate the video. So high up on our wish list to Santa is for this whistle bower, supposedly a novice policeman, to be bothered by his conscience and to testify in the pending criminal case. Whoever and wherever you are, into your hands lies not just the cause of justice for Darius, but possibly- the lesson, by way of example to other law enforcers, that torture is severely punished in our legal system.
5. Finally, a wish that the peace deal in Mindanao should pass the hurdle of constitutionality. Yes, I have been vocal against the Bangsamoro Agreement. But hey, if only because the agreement is fraught with incurable constitutional infirmities, I would include its passing the hurdle of constitutionality as part of the wish list. Hope, after all, is free. No harm in hoping that P Noy’s ultimate legal blunder, the Bangasamoro deal, is upheld as constitutional. And yes, its because we also want peace in Mindanao.
That’s it folks! Hope you’ve made your own list! More importantly, let’s hope Santa grants all our wishes.
Merry Christmas Philippines!