I CHANCED upon a commentary of Virgilio P. Alconera, a trial lawyer for 32 years, promoting his book “Black Holes of Justice.” It is a sort of coincidence since I had set my sights on writing about the perceived “perverted” dispensation of justice by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Just to recall, on November 10, 2016, Ombudsman ConchitaCarpio-Morales initiated an investigation of Philippine National Police Chief, Director General Ronald de la Rosa for accepting an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas from Senator Manny Pacquiao to watch the latter’s championship fight against Jessie Vargas. Many were dismayed by this move of the Ombudsman.
Former BayanMuna Rep. Teddy Casiño finds it unfairthat the Ombudsman was singling out Gen. Dela Rosa. Casiño tweeted, “If the Ombudsman is serious in investigating Bato for Pacquiao freebie, it should investigate all officials that Manny treats to his fights.”
Prior to this, on October 17, 2016, the Ombudsman declared that her office would not initiate its own investigation of Senator Leila de Lima in regard to her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons. “It’s not going tohappen,” Morales announced before the media. She added that issues raised against De Lima were mere allegations and that there was no lead to prompt the Ombudsman to initiate an investigation. Say what? I know of a case wherein Morales initiated a probe based only on news reports-–which were all hearsay and mere allegations. What a double standard!
(However, due to public pressure, during the University of the Philippines College of Law Alumni Homecoming on November 25, 2016, Morales announced that her office would start an investigation of De Lima.)
Greco Belgica, who ran for the Senate in the 2016 polls, was straight to the point in castigating Morales. Using the hashtag#OmbudsmanResign, he posted on his timeline – “To the Ombudsman: If you can investigate Bato, what’s stopping you from investigating DAP? Don’t insult us, and rob us at the same time.
… Can’t you just show a sense of fairness? Can you not be true to your constitutional duty to investigate and file charges against the biggest corruption case we’ve seen in recent Philippine history–DAP and the pork barrel system.”
According to Belgica, Morales runs her agency unchecked and accounts not even to the President. Thus, she abuses her power and sells out the Filipinos to her benefactors, and that she is the biggest stumbling block to justice.
What is a ‘black hole of justice’?
Alconera defines “black holes of justice” in this way:
“I mean the disappointing, disgusting or shameful decisions, resolutions and orders and acts of corrupt, incompetent, biased or unfair judicial and quasi-judicial officers and personnel. I call them so because like the cosmic black holes—which devour everything within their gravitational field, including light—judicial black holes devour the zeal and intensity for battle of many a young, upright and idealistic trial lawyer, ultimately corrupting them as well or driving them to instead seek happiness in other fields of endeavor; it devours the faith of the common man in the justice system, in the end making him contemptuous of the law, driving him to seek redress for his grievances in ways other than peaceful and judicial. In many instances, courts no longer provide shelter, protection, relief and comfort to the oppressed, the weak, thewronged. Instead, they are a haven and repository of judicial black holes. Our people go to court to seek refuge and comfort, full of hope, full of faith, only to leave its portals fully disillusioned and totally devastated.”
In the same manner, we look at the Office of the Ombudsman to give legal protection, relief and comfort to the oppressed, the weak, and the wronged. But, we are wrong and, we are wronged by the very same office.
Used and prostituted for political ends
There is now a general perception that the Office of the Ombudsman is being used to further the political ends of the previous administration. The Ombudsman is still subservient to the powers that appointed her.
The Ombudsman should be reminded of the essencein Tatad vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 72335-39 (1988). The Supreme Court declared,
“We cannot emphasize too strongly that prosecutors should not allow, and should avoid,giving the impression that their noble office is being used or prostituted, wittingly or unwittingly, for political ends or other purposes alien to, or subversive of, the basic and fundamental objective of serving the interest of justice evenhandedly, without fear or favor to any and all litigants alike, whether rich or poor, weak or strong, powerless or mighty. Only by strict adherence to the established procedure may the public’s perception of the of the prosecutor be enhanced.”
My insight tells me that the prevailing circumstances are giving the public the impression that the prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman, under the direct orders of the Ombudsman, are seemingly allowing themselves to be used and prostituted for political ends to satisfy their powerful benefactors-–all to the detriment of the poor, weak, and powerless litigants.
The words of then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice, Ma. Lourdes P. Sereno inher separate opinion in the case of Lejano vs. People(G.R. Nos. 176389 and 176864, 2010)is worth rereading. She said,“The duty of the prosecution is not merely to secure a conviction, but to secure a just conviction.”
She continued: “At the outset, it cannot be overemphasized that the prosecuting officer is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
Indeed, the guilty should not escape and the innocent spared. However, with what is happening now, it appears that the reverse is true–-the guilty escape and the innocentsuffer.
Indictment by a grand jury
How do we solve a problem like the Office of the Ombudsman, which apparently has been engulfed by the “black holes of justice”?
The simple answer is to adopt the jury system.
All indictments are done by a grand jury, and not by a single person. A grand jury is composed of civic-minded citizens, called jurors, who have chosen to work for the good of their communities by evaluating the operations of the government agencies and the performance of government officials.
The grand jurors are in fact the real agents of change.
The grand jury, by a unanimous vote of the grand jurors, issues criminal indictments to require the defendants to go on a trial. It determines the existence of probable cause. It investigates allegations of a public official’s corrupt or willful misconduct in office, and when warranted, files an accusation against that official. The grand jury does the work of an investigating prosecutor and that of the Ombudsman. Once there is an indictment, or accusation, from the grand jury, then the case goes on trial.
The advantage here is that the indictment is a product of a collegial body (the jury) and not of a single soul (prosecutor or Ombudsman), who we all know is susceptible to “external influence” and “millions” of other factors.
With a grand jury, investigations and indictment will no longer depend on the whims and caprices of a sole Ombudsman. Any indictment, for that matter, will be more acceptable to the defendant or respondent.
Going back to De la Rosa, he accepted the Ombudsman investigation, saying: “Okay lang, angimportante ay hindi tayo kurakot ng kuwarta.” (It’s okay, the important thing is that I am not corrupt.)
I share his sentiment.