I’ve spent perhaps at least an hour watching those Youtube streaming videos on the Lascañas testimony on the Senate hearing. If any bombshell was detonated, I did not notice or probably I missed. All in all, the ‘show’ did not appear to have lived up to the expectation of the sponsors.
What took most of the blast away it seems was the impression that it was all staged to destabilize the new government, or at least shave off from its popularity. From where I sat, there was utter lack of authenticity in the claim that Arthur Lascañas had a recent bout with his conscience leading to a so-called spiritual renewal hence the new revelations and the recantation of an earlier testimony made just a few months before in the same venue. Now, if there was any truth in his revelations, they were surely drowned by suspicions of ulterior motive and machinations of vested interest. After all, it was pretty undisguised where all the reinforcement was coming from. For all their protestations that they were not villains out to destabilize the government, the Yellows, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, unmistakably looked and acted the part. (By the way, is it true white men (Americans?)have whisked out the entire family of Lascañas out of Davao City?)
I would not say though that Lascañas was lying through and through. Give or take some obvious inconsistencies, there must be some truth to some of these, although laced with exaggeration and lies, to make the man he betrayed, President Rodrigo Duterte, an out and out, cold-blooded murderer. To be sure, the President has on several occasions actually admitted responsibility to some killings of criminals in the past. In fact, his most famous line publicly addressed to the bad guys is a menacing “I will kill you!” Hence, for all intents and purposes, the revelations somehow jibed naturally with the image that even earlier had earned him the moniker The Punisher.
The point of attack is plain: that Duterte himself was ordering the bloody extrajudicial murders in Davao City where he was mayor for so many years, the implication being that presently as President he is applying the same strategy all over the Philippines. That the dead were vicious criminals is beside the point, or so their argument goes; that these were done outside the bounds of the law is. That it sends them rascals scampering away is not the point; that they are being chased not in accordance with the legal system is. That there is relatively better peace and order situation now is beside the point; that the right to the presumption of innocence of the crime suspects was violated is the point.
A suspect is a suspect, the principle goes; he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And no one and no one has any right to pronounce anyone guilty, let alone mete out punishment, but the courts— after due process of law. We are in a modern society; in modern society, vigilante justice has no place.
Well, no quarrel there, but if this is their strategy to provoke anger and condemnation of the President, it might just be the wrong one.
For, in popular culture, the vigilante is a beloved figure. Dirty Harry, Rambo, Mad Max, Batman, The Punisher, to name a few from a long list, are famous characters for hunting down the bad guys and smashing them to kingdom come, surely not with any judicial imprimatur. Instant justice, swift retribution, no questions asked— it actually appeals to the base instinct of any man. That thing called due process which demands long, expensive court trials, eventually ending in the acquittal of the criminals— what charm does it have? If anything at all, what the Lascañas revelations did, true or not, was bolster that same image in Duterte. Indeed, the The Punisher/Dirty Harry persona may even be part of his charisma given that he won the elections by a landslide even as that image was already appended to him. Well, unless, people begin believing that indeed the crusading vigilante has gone rogue, targeting his enemies and the innocents instead, as Lascañas and his sponsors in the Senate were trying to angle the investigation.
The reality is, especially when the justice system is weak and the bad guys of the world are getting the upper hand, the Rambos and Dirty Harrys get the applause not the boos, the gratitude not the condemnation.
The biggest news about the 31st EDSA celebration is not some message about democracy and freedom or love of country but the sparsity of the crowd that assembled there for the occasion— and Jim Paredes engaged in a stare-down confrontation with boys. Whooa! I think, henceforth, the image will be the symbol of this event. In a way, Paredes’ behavior could well represent what has become of the EDSA People Power celebration: a platform to display the bigotry and self-righteousness of the Yellows, the victors of that historic event. Supremely ironic, since the event is supposed to celebrate democracy and freedom of expression. From now on, he is to me Jim ‘Lukatmi’ Paredes.
Oddly, the name Jim Paredes was never a prominent one in anti-Marcos movements and rallies during Martial law and after. He was popular as one of the Apo Hiking Society, but as an anti-Marcos activist? In fact, even in their songs, popular hits as they were, there was hardly any hint of activism or anti-government sentiments. So where must this zealousness be coming from?
It was his mother, Ester Jimenez, who actually fought President Marcos. She was a core member of the Light-A-Fire Movement, an anti-Marcos group said to be responsible for the numerous bombings around Metro Manila in the early 80s. She was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death for terrorism. She was however released by the Cory administration, which probably explains her son’s devotion to the Aquinos.
Wikileaks is proving to be a vast wealth of information and references even for Philippine history buffs. Indeed, I unexpectedly stumbled on the item below, as with the others before, while browsing the site.
https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978MANILA04022_d.html (with minor edits)
Detained ex-Senator Benigno Aquino’s two recent media events, his March 10 “Face the Nation” interview and his March 11 press conference, prompted swift rebuttal from Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Enrile sent Aquino two letters, with copies to the press, seeking to refute Aquino’s claim that he worked, rather than for the CIA, that he never belonged to the Communist Party, and that he is innocent of subversion and murder charges.
The first Enrile letter, eight pages in length, was reproduced in the Manila dailies March 11 juxtaposed with coverage of Aquino’s TV interview. The letter cites documents allegedly showing that as early as 1967 Aquino was claiming to be a CIA agent. Enrile’s letter states, however, that “although Aquino offered to become a CIA agent, he was rejected…” It alleges that in response to a 1967 inquiry initiated by Rafael M. Salas, then Executive Secretary, “the CIA Station Chief in Manila” revealed that Aquino had attempted to join the CIA but that his request was denied because he was “classified as unsuitable for anti-communist work.”
The Enrile letter disputes Aquino’s contention that his conviction for allegedly ordering the murder of barrio captain Sumat was based on the testimony of a single witness. Similary, it disputes Aquino’s claim that the subversion charges against him were based on the testimony only of professional anti-Communist Simeon del Rosario. Enrile argued that this would certainly shock the military, because they had patiently presented a great number of witnesses to actual subversive acts committed by Aquino. On Aquino’s denial of Communist Party membership, Enrile noted that “you may not have been formally listed as a member but you certainly were active in its leadership.”
Enrile reacted defensively to an off hand remark made by Aquino during his interview that he (Enrile) was one of the lawyers involved in the sale of the Aquino-Cojuangco estate, Hacienda Luisita. Enrile said he may have been a member of the law firm which handled the sale or have been referred some papers on taxation, but never handled the transaction actively.
Enrile’s second letter to Aquino appeared in the March 12 Manila dailies alongside accounts of Aquino’s Fort Bonifacio press conference. Full text of letter follows: “I am constrained to write you another note because of the claims you made in your television interview last night. It is now quite obvious that while you were working with the CIA, you actually were happy to be used by that agency for its purposes, even if it refused to be identified with you by rejecting your offer to train and work with the CIA. It is also quite obvious that you not only rendered service to a foreign government which could be classified under the nature of espionage, that you actually went our of your way to offer intelligence information to that foreign government. You likewise claim you were authorized by the late Secretary of Affairs Mauro Mendez and the late Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Carlos P. Garcia to undertake training with the CIA and participate in covering operations with the CIA. Records of the government intelligence agencies have established that these claims of yours are untrue. I will send you documents which show up your transparent efforts to escape responsibility for your acts by involving the names of deceased high government officials, which to say the least is unfair to the departed heads of state. My I reiterate my previous offer to seek authority to declassify documents pertinent to matters that are now of primary concern to you and to place them at your disposal.”
I have not found any Aquino’s reply just yet.
Because opinions about the case against Ninoy Aquino have always been tainted with bias, for and against, it would be interesting to know how the then-US Ambassador to the Philippines actually viewed the matter.
The case against Ninoy Aquino according to classified US cables (with minor edit)
Summary: Former Senator Aquino, who has been incarcerated without charges for eleven months, will be tried beginning August 27 at public sessions of Military Tribunal for illegal possession of firearms, murder and subversion. Subversion accusations against Aquino are not new and may have some basis in fact. While maximum penalty is death, it is doubtful that Marcos would go this far against his principal former political opponent.
Department of National Defense announced August 23 that military trial of former Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., imprisoned Secretary-General of Liberal Party (LP) and Marcos arch-rival, will begin August 27. Aquino is charged with illegal possession of firearms, murder and four counts of violating the Anti-Subversion Act, and further charges are reportedly under study. He will be tried by Military Tribunal No. 2 headed by respected Brig. Gen. Jose Syjuco, at National Defense College at Fort Bonifacio, of which Syjuco is president. Local press reports that Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile said trial will be open to the public. Aquino will be defended by widely-respected former LP Senators Roxas, Tañada, Salonga and Rodrigo among others; initial action of lawyers was to file petition before Supreme Court requesting restraining order and/or injunction against military trial.
Trial will open on August 27 with arraignment of Aquino on weapons charge and will continue on thrice-weekly schedule until completed. Aquino is accused of illegally possessing various arms, including machine guns, high-powered rifles and hand grenades.
There are four counts of subversion. In one, Aquino is charged with providing weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the New People’s Army (NPA) head Bernabe Buscayno (aka Commander Dante) and other NPA leaders between 1965 and 1969; giving shelter and medical assistance to ten HMB/NPA personnel in 1970 and 1971; and donating P15,000 in April 1969 to the NPA to organize demonstrations which took place same month before Congress, Malacañang Palace and American Embassy. Two other subversion cases also charge Aquino with providing weapons to NPA members. Fourth subversion case charges him with giving former Philippine Constabulary Lt. Victor Corpuz P500 to rent car used in December 1970 raid on Philippine Military Academy armory. Subversion charges are also brought against Dante, Corpuz and several other NPA personnel, in addition to Aquino in these same cases.
On murder charge, Aquino is charged with conspiring to kill a barrio captain in 1957 in his home province of Tarlac; there are reports this charge may have been dropped.
Comment: Accusations against Aquino for plotting with and assisting communist dissidents are not new. President Marcos aired similar allegations after August 1971 suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and in mid- September 1972, only a few days before declaring Martial Law; however, this is the first time that actual charges have been filed. While Aquino consistently denied charges of subversion publicly before arrest on September 23, 1972, he made numerous statements in private, to (US) Embassy officials and others, that suggested he had close connections to the NPA. Dante and Corpuz to be tried in absentia; strategy in involving Aquino in their trial designed to strengthen impression he is a subversive and to undercut his political popularity.
Lawyers for Aquino are highly qualified and they and the former Senator himself can be expected to make a strong defense. It will be interesting to see how long trial remains public.
Maximum penalty under the 1957 Anti-subversion Act, which outlaws communist party in the Philippines is death. However it is unlikely Marcos will risk making martyr of Aquino. Marcos’ intentions appear to be tarnishing of Aquino’s political image and legalizing his continued detention.
*US Ambassador to the Philippines 1973 to 1977, William H. Sullivan
I am pleased to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated June 27, 1977, which was delivered to me in my isolation quarters in the evening of that date. I also wish to raise certain basic points connected with your denial of my basic human right to a fair trial. Allow me, above all, to thank you for the very frank and cordial exchange of views that we had last June 21, shortly after I was taken out of my quarters and brought to your study room in Malacañang by my custodial officer, General Josephus Ramas. I shall be equally frank and forthright in this letter. In your letter, you adverted to the presence of Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary of Information Francisco Tatad, and Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. This is correct. Being a prisoner and stripped of any liberty, I did not have any friend or relative with me to bear witness to our conversation. Likewise, I do not have any access to the local mass media which you control.
Unfortunately, you forgot to mention that in the meeting of June 21, 1977 we reached agreement on two main points: 1. our conversation was to be treated with “maximum confidentiality”; 2. Solicitor-General Mendoza and Secretary Ponce Enrile would study all the legal angles of my simple request that, in the interest of justice, the cases pending against me before Military Commission No. 2 be transferred to the civil courts, under such conditions “as prescribed by the laws of the land, and under such rules of common decency so that I may be assured a fair and impartial trial (my letter to you dated June 7, 1977).” If there are any legal difficulties they were supposed to get in touch and confer with my chief legal counsel, Senator Jovito R. Salonga, in order to thresh out those difficulties. In my presence, you directed them to meet with my counsel. It now pains me to say that this agreement was disregarded on both counts. Without my previous knowledge or consent, Secretary Tatad called a press conference where some aspects of our conversation were divulged. He made you look good— at my expense. Words were taken our of context to make me appear like a beggar. But after almost five years of solitary confinement in an army prison camp, this is of little consequence to me. What is important to me is that neither Solicitor General Mendoza nor Secretary Enrile made any effort to contact, much less confer with, Senator Salonga on the “complex procedural and legal constraints” you pointed out in your letter of June 27. I was reliably informed that, in fact, Solicitor General Mendoza left the country last June 24 shortly after our meeting in your study room. In your letter, you spoke of equal protection of laws and your desire “to act in an even-handed manner concerning all persons involved, irrespective of my (your) own personal inclinations.” This is a noble wish indeed, couched in beautiful language. But this is what your office should have done right at the start. Let the record speak. Since your election as President in 1965 and your unforgettable reelection in 1969, I was and have been your consistent critic. Rightly or wrongly, my language on occasions was sharp and stinging. On August 24, 1971, three days after the Plaza Miranda bombing when top leaders of my party, the Liberal Party were seriously injured, you called a nationwide TV-radio press conference in the midst of widespread indignation against your administration. Before the whole nation, you publicly indicted me and linked me with illegal and subversive activities, which are virtually the same charges pending before the Military Tribunal. Whether out of anger or pique you declared that the evidence against me “is not only strong, but overwhelming” (Manila Times, August 30, 1971).
I then expected you to have me prosecuted before the civil courts, just like any other alleged offender. But you did not. Martial law was declared more than one year later, on September 21, 1972. You had me arrested and thrown into an army prison camp. Then you created this Military Tribunal, composed of your direct subordinates, to sit in judgement of me. Its members are all dependent on you– for their stay in service and for their promotion. Under the law, you can dissolve, disband, or revamp this tribunal at any time. It is my humble view that anywhere in the civilized world, no independent-minded observer can possibly say that I can obtain “equal justice under the law” from a military tribunal of your own creation, considering your public prejudgment of my guilt and your own personal interest. For your military subordinates to acquit me is to declare you– their commander-in-chief– guilty. But for them to condemn me is to affirm their loyalty to you. For your military tribunal to acquit me is to hold you out as ruthless tyrant who had me detained without any lawful cause for five long years. But for them to convict me, as they must, is to justify this long period of solitary confinement. I believe that in your mind and heart, you have always known that my trial before such a military tribunal would be an unmitigated sham and a mockery. Your issuance of PD 1165, in which you provided for appeal to the Supreme Court in case of conviction by the Military Tribunal, does not remedy this fatal defect. For in my case the possibility of acquittal at the first and most crucial stage is not only remote but impossible. How can there be due process of law or equal protection of the laws, under these circumstances? My lawyers have assured me that it is an established legal doctrine that when a defendant is denied due process at the very outset, the entire proceeding against him becomes incurably tainted. That is why I am pressing this appeal for a reconsideration of your denial of my basic human right to a fair trial, which, in as large sense, also involves the right of all Filipinos to due process of law.
As I said during our June 21 conversation, I have faith that you cannot, if you wish to be just, deny me this basic right. The reasons are clear and unassailable: a. the “complex procedural and legal constraints” of which you speak were not of my own making; b. the fact that at this point in our history as a people, your word happens to be the supreme law, and all departments and agencies of the government are under your direction and control (General Order No. 1); c. you cannot now ignore your solemn assurances before the whole world that our commitment to the cause of human rights is an “irrevocable one” (Memorial Day speech of May 30, 1977) and if I may quote you in your June 3, 1977 speech before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines: “Any violation of human rights is one too many that may not be tolerated by the New Society… our commitment to law and order will not be impaired by any lack of regard for human right… we shall try to match the efforts of the big nations in securing for human dignity the highest place in the hierarchy of values among our people.”
Thank you very much for your desire to extend to me “as much help and understanding as may be legally possible.” All I ask is for you to give me the justice that I believe I deserve, as a fellow human being and as a Filipino.
While browsing Wikileaks, I chanced upon this letter of President Ferdinand Marcos to Senator Ninoy Aquino sometime mid-1977. Five years into Martial law and five years a prisoner, Ninoy apparently had just had an audience with Marcos in Malacañang regarding his case then pending at a military tribunal, prompting this letter to the opposition leader.
Dear Mr. Aquino,
I refer to your letter dated June 7, 1977 wherein you sought to meet me personally and discuss your formal request for the transfer of the trial of your cases to the Civil Court from the Military Commission where they are now being tried.
Favorably acting upon your appeal to meet with me, I directed Brig. Gen. Josephus Ramas (Chief of Staff, Philippine Army) to bring you to Malacañang Palace which he did, on June 21, 1977 at 11:00 AM. Our meeting took place at my study room for two and a half hours in the presence of Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary of Public Information Francisco Tatad and Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.
At that point of conversation when you reiterated among others, your plea to have your cases transferred to the Civil Courts, I recalled to you that I have always indicated my willingness to have your cases tried before the Civil Courts, but you strongly and repeatedly expressed your unwillingness then to submit yourself to the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts because of your claim that the presiding judges of those courts could be removed by me anytime.
I wish to assure you that I have given your request serious and fullest study. In the process, I have consulted with legal experts of the government on whatever may be the constitutional and legal implications involved. It is their consensus that your request, if granted at this stage of the trial of your case, is attended by complex procedural and legal constraints, such as the principle of double jeopardy, the question of jurisdiction and the denial of equal protection of the law to those who have already been tried and are being tried by the Military Tribunals involving cases similar to those against you. It is, therefore, unfortunate that your request has come at an inauspicious time, considering that the prosecution has already completed the presentation of its evidence in all the cases against you and, in fact, has rested its case.
However, be that as it may and in order to give you and other accused similarly situated an opportunity to legally ventilate further your claim of innocence before another judicial forum and in order to serve the ends of justice more fully, I have accordingly promulgated Presidential Decree No. 1165 dated 24 June 1977, giving you and others so circumstanced the right to appeal directly to the Supreme Court in the event judgments in your cases should result in conviction. I am herewith attaching a copy of P.D. No. 1165 for your information and reference.
As I said to you during our meeting, it is my desire to extend to you as much help and understanding as may be legally possible and in my earnest effort to demonstrate this, I have exhausted all available options. However, both the Constitution and our laws which I am sworn to uphold and execute compel me to act in an evenhanded manner concerning all persons involved, irrespective of my personal inclinations.
It is, nevertheless, my hope that should the opportunity present itself, I could be of some assistance to you.
Ferdinand E. Marcos, President of the Philippines
Browsing further, I found out Ninoy composed an immediate and long reply. (But it needs re-typing as the whole thing is encoded in all-caps).
NEXT: NINOY AQUINO’S REPLY