The clenched fist misused again

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RENE SAGUISAG

BADGERED Born Loser Brutus Thornapple: “What are you going to be this year [for Halloween.]”
Kid, Hurricane Hattie: “Something really scary.”

Brutus: “Ah, one of the old standards? What – a ghost, witch, a vampire”?

Hattie: “No, a politician.”

When I dancexercised last Tuesday at Club Filipino, run by my stude, lawyer Obet de Leon (for almost two decades now, shades of Macoy), no trapo who could scare the bejesus out of us, materialized. So, no surprise in that fun Halloween Party, with many masked participants (some may have seen my face as my mask).

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But, was I startled when I saw a pix last weekend showing four eminent human rights lawyers doing the clenched-fist salute with Digong, for which a visiting Aussie poo-bah got hammered. Elsewhere, as in Down Under, it is associated with Hitler’s storm troopers. Insensitive? Or tactful?

The four lawyers will remain unnamed, particularly the one who, confronted by media if he was the one in another pix, embracing or groping a GRO (guest relations officer), honestly answered, “Huh? I am not sure!” He did not follow the sage advice of a senior MABINI stalwart, “deny deny deny until you die.”

Recall how Aussie Spymaster Nick Warner, who did Digong’s fave gesture with him, got walloped. Aussie Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said he was sandbagged into aping Digong’s fist bump, which might explain why our human rights lawyers did the same. As a courtesy to a bully. The Fuhrer gesture, if thrust upward, is called the human rights salute of medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympic in Mexico (pobre Mejico, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos; poor Mexico, so far from God and so near the United States, it is said). Last Saturday, a pert tallish Mejicana was dancing up a storm at Salon de Ning in the Peninsula. Pinays, like my late wife, the blacks, and Latinos are born to dance.

No poster boy for taxes

Both born to dance gracefully in the ring were Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao, with outstanding feats. Ali stood on principle, refused to be drafted on April 28, 1967, was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title, and suffered, after asserting “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Viet Cong.”

Mareng Winnie Monsod wrote why “Manny Pacquiao deserves kudos” for filing “An Act Raising the Excise Tax on Tobacco Products” (PDI, October 21, 2017). I cannot endorse the paean for one alleged by ex-BIR bosschief Kim Henares to owe government taxes in the billions. But, as Manny keeps brown-nosing and praising Digong, he won’t get the Mighty Corp. and Lucio Tan treatment; the terrorized duo paid billions when Digong scared the dickens out of them. Manny is not among our endangered species.

But, not only do we have the right to expect wealthy Manny to pay his taxes but he also has to respect the Constitution. Its Article VI, Section 24, says that all “revenue . . . bills originate exclusively in the House,” where he fiercely competed for Top Absentee. Under this origination clause, Manny could have filed the bill there where he was a melancholy no-show. No Poster Boy for revenues, he ain’t.

Our leaders should not be scofflaws. And the Senate with its superstars should not be our modern Star Chamber. Pass laws and leave it to Manila’s Finest to solve frat killings, which it is doing.

The “Time” issue of October 23, 2017, carried a six-page spread, “A Deadly Campus Tradition,” on frats. The mag presented both sides of the divisive frat issue, given the fatalities in the US. The right to associate is constitutional and certain Supreme Court members belong to frats. (During the dark years, I would call certain frat men as Sigma Rogues.)

Star chamber of Torquemadas

Here, I see where Manila’s Finest has done its job. What is the lawmaking body looking for? In aid of legislation? Or of grandstanding? Is the Senate finer than Manila’s Finest in gumshoe sleuthing?

Is it suggested that for a lawyer to advise anyone to exercise his right to remain silent would be a “misdeed”? But, why should the Bill of Rights, intact in a police stationhouse (supposedly), be checked at the door of Congress? The Senate is not the PNP-NBI writ large.

In the US, any guest can cite the Fifth, i.e., the sacred right to remain silent, and not incriminate oneself, is honored. The US Congress cannot grant immunity. It has to go to court to get it, which is routinely obtained. Only then may the guest be forced to speak, truthfully.

Nowhere in our Constitution can I see the power of Congress to detain one who exercises his right not to speak.

The Inquisition ended centuries ago elsewhere, but continues here? Only an effectively immunized guest can be coerced to speak, truthfully, in my view. I have read the Arnault and Neri cases and favor the human rights pose or libertarian tilt in the latter.

The police have solved the frat crime. That lawmakers can craft new laws is beyond my intellectual reach. But, I am prepared to be surprised, in that we are not simply adopting the best thinking of centuries ago in some Star Chamber of modern Torquemadas.

The suspects are going through a difficult time. Let them reflect with their parents, godparents, confessors and friends on what to do. No need to pile on them. How long will their Golgotha be?

Lenny Villa was killed in an Aquila Legis hazing on February 11, 1991. The venerable Justice JBL Reyes once said that lawyers tend to put off harder cases and prioritize easier ones. It took relative neophyte Associate Justice Meilou Sereno to write finis to the Villa case in 2012 and then, as Chief, to rule on a motion to reconsider, in 2016, when I, as counsel for acquitted Zos Mendoza could finally tell him his calvary was over. After 25 years!

Suppose it was my son who was maimed or worse in draft hazing? Tough. But, I also try to see it from the opposite standpoint: suppose it is my son summoned to a televised embarrassing Senate hearing compelled to speak and, OK, even lie, on his role in a fatal hazing case?

Miguel A. Perez-Rubio, gone this year, in his autobiography, Nine Lives, “lied” when arrested and tortured by the Japanese. He was just in Baguio to be with his girlfriend, he said. He denounced his torturers but in the end, said interestingly: “I have no rancor towards these two [Yako and Obata] sons of bitches.” Page 79. The virtue of candor. The seductive tantalizing Introduction was written by Teddy Boy Locsin, who in our days in the Palace Guest House once made the “you are No. 1” sign with his middle finger, ha, ha. Right after Digong’s own heart. Like Ninoy at his most mischievous, Teddy Boy could be an elegant, charming bullshitter.

But, the Senate should not be our modern Kempeitai. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and our Bill of Rights guarantee the right not to be subjected to an inquisition, the right to remain silent, the right not to be compelled to speak, unless some ironclad judicial immunity for snitching is guaranteed.

We all feel for the families of the victims. But I also remember what Justice Frankfurter, an American of Jewish extraction, and therefore belonged to “the most vilified and persecuted minority,” once wrote: “It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people. And so, while we are concerned here with a shabby [fratman], we must deal with his case in the context of what are really the great themes expressed [in the Constitution].” United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 59 (1950).

Rights abuses in Marawi

It may be within Digong’s powers to reward the Marawi warriors with a trip to Hong Kong. But, I wonder why not simply Boracay, etc., if only to conserve foreign exchange? We join the applause for Marawi’s liberation but we’re not forgetting that the Lanao del Sur IBP Chapter may have asked the foolish question of the day by alleging and denouncing human rights abuses in Marawi, ventilating its “utter shock.”

Martin Luther King said that the day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die. Warriors on both sides may have crossed the line.

In crossing lines, Digong has admirably extracted help from various sources, but he should not reject human rights conditionalities. In this respect, the human rights community will always be grateful to Jimmy Carter and Patt Derian, whose intervention we welcomed in the time of Macoy.

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