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.
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
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.