Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Charges Have Been Filed, What Next?


What Next? Everybody’s asking.
 


When a dog has caught up with the car he is chasing what will he do with it? As everyone knows the dog will have earned the right to pee on the tires, it is not only right and just, but instinct dictates it.

The government has caught up with Janet Napoles, a potential star witness to the unearthed scams perpetrated by the some senators, congressmen together with possible accomplices in the bureaucracy. Like the speedy dog earning his right to pee on the tires, which the dog immediately did before the car drove away, the government should instinctively do what it has to do after a successful chase…investigate and prosecute immediately, otherwise the suspected miscreants would have time to regroup and make their getaway either by wheel chair, which is the getaway vehicle of choice of many miscreants; by pulling a Copperfield disappearing act; or by allowing it to go to the usual courts where the case will languish in the dockets far longer than even the life time of the youngest senator or congressman.

It seems that Philippine courts are the holding areas of the guilty rich and evil people for the Court of Courts up there, where all of them wait for Divine Justice to be meted out on them, something they have been successful in parrying on earth. Most will get their comeuppance here, where ultimate justice will be served on everyone and harsh punishment of hellfire and eternal damnation will be meted without the benefit of appeals. Some by grace and by the infinite mercy of the Almighty will not be punished in perpetua, but, for a limited stay in an unknown and desolate waiting place.  Attorneys Lorna Kapunan, Sigried Fortun and any of the “de campana” lawyers’ pleas will be not heeded. Even if you kill one of them to accompany their client it will be to no avail for he or she will have to worry about the unfiled cases against them on earth but are already set for litigation, up there, in the Court of Courts. They will be too busy defending themselves.

It seems that the Pnoy has been pussyfooting on making a decision to push for speedy investigations. It seems that unlike dogs (of the James Thurber kind), the government is lacking in instinctive actions. Thurber’s dogs seem to be a lot cooler and smarter. While Pnoy vacillates the suspects are able to regroup after the initial shock and are now busy with cover up strategies, intensifying media noise through their battery of paid hacks in print and broadcast media spewing all sorts of disinformation and sowing intrigue through innuendoes. Their lawyers are burning the midnight oil and eyebrows looking for loopholes, evidence suppression ploys, crafting libel suits by the hundreds, searching for jurisprudence that can be twisted, weaving tales, fabricating alibis, buying expert witnesses to prove forgeries, selecting medical practitioners who may come in handy when the going gets rough for their clients and other useful tactics to delay trials or even exonerate their clients from the charges. And chances are, they will succeed, a favourite case that is always alluded to is the Ampatuan massacre case which through shrewd lawyering was able to extend the trial for a ridiculous length of time with not a single accused being sentenced. With all the delay, more victims have been added to the list as men with tales to tell continue to disappear.

Something has to be done about our justice system, at least for the time being when we seek to prosecute the guilty parties of this heinous crime of depriving the citizens of the republic, most of whom are impoverished, of the money allotted for their amelioration. At least seventy percent of the money allocated by the government for services to be rendered to its citizens have been purloined by the very people who were supposed to look after them. Senators and congressmen have brazenly ransacked the till without regard to the people who have placed them in their positions. The pork barrel crimes become more insidious in a backdrop of grinding poverty and high unemployment rates.

Finally after some prodding from the people, charges have been put together and filed. This was a cause for elation, for at least, what seemed a stolid and immoveable phase has finally been resolved and the process is off to a start. The joy is short lived, we are now about to start on the next chapter which is the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of the scam. Preliminary investigations follow soon after the charges are made. With the voluminous documents gathered by the Justice Department, truckloads as reported, one could expect that some time will be spent poring over all the evidences before the Ombudsman can file charges and issue warrants of arrest on the suspects. Plunder is a nonbailable offense, it calls for an immediate expulsion from any government position and it will place them in jail detention.

With the money and influence most of the suspects have at their disposal, the initial time estimate before charges could be filed would be at least two years. Then the litigations would probably take, conservatively another three years or more depending on how much money is available for their defense. Defense would include use of the network of friends in the courts, the effectiveness of their dilatory tactics, expert witnesses of all kinds, defaulting circumstances, fabrication of evidences and more depending on how many tricks the lawyers have in their bag of magic.

The estimated time for the cases to progress are experience based, historical and in the normality of things (normal being dilatory tactics and other influences will be exerted as is normal in Philippines). If allowed its normal course some of the suspects will probably get his just deserts in the Court of Courts while the others will probably still be around but with extreme depletions from their loot due to the lengthy litigations their cases have taken. The loot would have transferred to a new power group, the creation of the lawyer oligarchs.

But we should take hear.t that at the forefront of side of the people are three stalwarts, three “iron ladies” which journalists prefer to describe them. The ladies are Ombudsman Charito Carpio Morales, COA Commissioner Gracia Pulido Tan and DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima. All three are feistiness personified. Tough, uncompromising and doggedly determined to fight corruption and criminality.

We have seen how focused Leila de Lima was when the scam surfaced with the rescue of the whistle blowers from illegal detention.  Gracia Pulido Tan with her people in COA had assiduously put together a report that was so comprehensive that those alluded to either vehemently reacted or just went into a low profile stance. Ombudsman Charito Carpio Morales, in anticipation did her own investigate work even before the DOJ delivered the documentary evidence. She more or less promised that her work will be completed in a year’s time.

Despite this formidable team working on our side, the citizens, we cannot just lay back and feel smug that all will be well. This is not a time for complacency; we have hardly won anything, there is an eternity of time between now and the conviction of the guilty ones. The other side is composed of strong and well heeled; they will not just lie supinely in their backs and let justice take its course. No way. These are cornered rats fighting for survival with awesome resources. We are in for a long, vicious protracted fight and vigilance must be maintained till the threat is repelled.

All these dangers have been foreseen and what worried most of us is that nothing might come out of this because the suspected perpetrators are from the powerful political blocs and families who would definitely fight tooth and nail in their defense. The most discouraging thought is the ineptness and the slow moving Philippine judicial process. The Ampatuan case, where the accused parties are patently guilty of the most heinous wholesale massacre of media men and political rivals is more than five years in the works without any sign of ever being resolved. The first tranch of cases filed already included quite a lot; the waiting list of persons to be charged is even longer. If nothing is changed with the way courts handle cases the pork litigations will still be around in the next generation.

During the early discussions in our e-groups I came up with a suggestion on an abridged judicial process and other ways of proceeding.

 

The first step is identifying persons, institutions who may be involved in the scam.

The Defendants

      1.   Case against Government personalities (elected or appointed)

A.  Legislators and other government officials (elected or appointed) with pork barrel entitlements

B.  Accomplices in government. Officials of implementing agencies, cabinet members and their staff who knowingly aided and abetted the scam

 

2.   Non government personalities and entities

a.   Persons or institutions (companies, NGOs) who set up the structure of the scam operations

b.   Persons who operated the institutions involved in the scam

c.   And personnel who knowingly aided and abetted the scam

d.   Other nongovernment institutions and persons complicit in the crime (banks, law enforcement, others who aided the commission of the crime)

Secondly, to address the concern of the snails’ pace our judicial process moves I suggested the convening of a special court to expedite the proceedings.

 

Convening of A Special Court To Try the Cases

1.   Introduce new features in litigation rules which could prevent dilatory and other process impeding tactics.

2.   Nonstop hearing schedules

3.   One legislative defendant at a time. There will be similarities in most cases. The first one may serve as jurisprudence to expedite the trials of the subsequent ones

4.   Rigorous screening of judges who will be involved in trying the cases

5.   Rigorous screening of the team that will compose the prosecution to avoid unwitting or witting ineptness and errors that could result in defaults

 
Thirdly, there are a myriad concerns that are corollary to the judicial process in this scam. I have listed a few which I felt those involved should be aware of. The list is by no means exhaustive and there would still be quite a few that could be added.

 
Other Concerns

1.   Safeguarding witnesses

2.   Safeguarding material evidences

3.   Continuous search for new evidences and witnesses

4.   Money/asset securing procedures (precaution and pre-emption)

5.   Ensuring that the defendants do not flee the country

6.   Media management – media bureau to brief media and for press releases

7.   Security management of court venue/s and others where threats exist

At this time the first tranch of charges has been filed. The DOJ has done its investigation on the priority cases, the COA has completed a comprehensive report on the PDAF transactions (clean and the questionable ones), the ombudsman has geared up doing parallel investigative work even before receiving the documented evidences from the DOJ. It seems we’re off to an auspicious start and will be making headways into the successful prosecution of the guilty parties. We need to stay vigilant as there will be twists and turns as the cases progress.
Let’s all keep on trucking.



 

 

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Pork Rallies


 
 
    
More “pork” rallies are scheduled after the Million Man March at the Luneta last August 26. The series of rallies are intended to put pressure on the government to scrap the PDAF which more or less has been done or promised and urgently pursue investigations leading to the prosecution of the legislators alleged to have dipped their fingers in the “pork barrel”.  Now those objectives seem to be easily accepted common causes for rallying the people to get together in Luneta, EDSA, Plaza Miranda, Mendiola and other venues appropriate for venting their ire.

 

Not quite.

 

Enter the groups with agendas far removed from the purpose originally intended but would like to thumb a ride on the expected big turn-out for the event.

 

The leftists represented by cause oriented groups and the party lists with socialist leanings will be there. The speculated reasons they will be there would be to disrupt the proceedings and sabotage the scrapping of the pork which for years now have been the legitimate source of funding for their not too patriotic endeavours and also to discredit the Aquino administration which has been the gist of their rhetoric.

 

The group of the suspected legislators in the scam list are not expected to lie idle and just belly up without a fight. With the huge collective wherewithal of money, influence and power within this group they can organize an army of marchers, again with the end in view of discrediting the administration and the investigations conducted by the government agencies. It is a back against the wall situation for them and like cornered rats they will employ all the tricks they can muster, violence and mayhem included.

 

Another group with a special stake in all of these are the political groups, the opposition party who stand to gain with the retention of the status quo. They will make capital of the large crowd speculated to be more grass roots than the Luneta marchers. These are popular politicians whose popularity stem from their supposed images of being champions of the poor largely created by patronage politics which has been the conventional gambit of the “trapos”. This group also seeks the discrediting of Pnoy and his administration and may well be the most formidable because of its populist image, its efficient machinery and a big enough war chest to fund anything; from building cathedrals to financing revolutions.

 

Another group is composed of the progeny of the leader of the failed New Society. Much of the Marcos wealth remains intact with just a few crumbs surrendered to PCCG. A lot more of the plunder are still being pursued by the new, improved PCCG whose efforts seem to have had little progress thus far. Bongbong dreaming of the glory days in Malacanan would not hesitate to use the treasure cache left by his father to finance a grand “resbak”. The rally has been auspiciously set on the birthday of the Marcos. Expect hordes of “hakot” chanting for a return to old New Society. More than this motive Bongbong is also addressing the threat of prosecution with his alleged complicity in the “pork barrel” scam.

 

Not to be ignored are remnants of the not too distant past, the diseased Gloria and cohorts. Just like the legislators et al, this group is vulnerable to probes soon after the investigations and prosecution in the “pork barrel” are dealt with. Corruption is similar to cancer, the evil leaves a distinct trail which has an odious nexus, much like cancer metastasizing whose spread is interconnected. They, too, share the desire to see that Pnoy fails in his anti-corruption mission and they will easy to recognize by the kind of placards they bear during the rally.

 

There is, of course, the sincere and moral middle class who invented peaceful revolutions, the original organizers of the protest march at the Luneta to show their outrage against the “pork barrel scam”. These are the same people who led the EDSA I and EDSA II revolutions. Erap protested the fact that this was not a true revolution because the poor were hardly represented in any of these uprisings. Even Marcos said that the revolution that ousted him was not truly a people’s initiative because it was only in Manila and from people of the upper middle to upper classes of society; hardly populist. Through history the middle class have taken up the cudgels for the poor to ameliorate them from their wretched conditions. Those living in poverty hardly have the time to join these protest marches. They are too busy eking out a daily subsistence, or may even be clueless as to what is about in their midst, or are resigned to the fact that all these are just a tiresomeness that is not relevant to their lives. If ever they find themselves involved in these marches it is not for grievances or causes but as paid participants to mouth scripted chants and wave placards prepared by organizers.

 

It will be good if the turn-out is in great numbers. The government seems to respond well to numbers, big numbers and hopefully they are pushed to act with urgency on the investigations and expedite the filing of cases against the suspected perpetrators of the scam. The other demands are the abolition of the “pork barrel” which has already been attended to or promised to be attended to and the FOI bill which has not gotten any favorable response from Pnoy thus far.

 

Let us hope that nothing untoward will happen in the upcoming rallies. There is the risk that the groups with hidden agendas might start provocative moves which can trigger an inadvertent response from the crowd control officers in the rally. As happened in several demonstrations in the past these end up in violence with victims losing life and limb. Invariably, these are blamed on the peace keeping officers, crowd control group who are perceived as representatives of government and its leaders. The stakes are high with socialist ideologues smelling an opportunity to discredit government, suspected plunderers in desperate straits, ghosts of past despots crying reinstitution and contemporary politics rearing its ugly head to seize an advantage.

 

Pray earnestly that these demonstrations do not become sensational disasters that serve the immoral and harmful goals of some and that the government relent and heed the demands of marchers who are sincere of heart and purpose.

 

After Luneta, the subsequent rallies will not be a walk in the park, but a trek into virtual minefields which will sow confusion. There is so much at stake with so many groups of different agendas but all in agreement to thwart Pnoy’s anti corruption mission. Be not cowed by the colossal evil that confronts us. In the end Truth and Justice will prevail and there will be peace in our land.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Slow Justice Is No Justice

 
 
Despite all the noise of misinformation and disinformation being floated about to stir controversy, create confusion in order to delay or block the investigations and the filing of cases all these will settle down and the judicial process w...ill begin.
There seems to be enough evidence and testimonies to nail the guilty parties but the process will be painfully slow for reasons we all know too well. With most of the accused belonging to the power elite it will probably be as snail paced as the Ampatuan trial multiplied by the number of accused persons. The score in favor of the Filipino people... Nada, with only the lawyers of a certain ilk emerging as winners.
I do not know of ways of making the wheels of justice run faster in these cases. My simplistic mind can only suggest convening a special court to handle this. I would even go as far as suggesting that perhaps due process may be relaxed a bit in favor of the Filipino people rather than the powerful and monied individual which due process favors. It is only right that in this case we tilt the balance in our favor. The late president Ramon Magsaysay once said "those who have less in life should be given more in law". With the inequitable wealth distribution most of us would belong to those having less in life, 99% to borrow an OWS term.
If this is treated in the usual judicial manner we will never see justice served. With legal legerdemain the high caliber mercenary lawyers will just come up with blocks, all legal, and in a few years time, when Pnoy gets his deserved rest, all these will be relegated to the dust bin of history.
I do not know how to progress this. Maybe those amongst us who have the expertise and talent can come up with a workable plan. We do not have a dearth of these brilliant people in grupo58 and AFBP. Of course some of you may not agree and consider this as harebrained but I can say without fear of contradiction that we all seek redress from this despicable plunder of oyr money and would like to see justice served in our lifetime.