• Hitler’s Sieg Heil; immunity

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    RENE SAGUISAG

    PREZ Digong making the clenched fist gesture with visiting Aussie spymaster Nick Warner was embarrassingly reminiscent of what Hitler’s troopers would do. For our Prez to sandbag a guest to do Hitler’s infamous “sieg heil” gesture with him is insensitive. Flak would follow. I agree that the gesture seems “entirely inappropriate”. The gesture is illegal in Germany. But dis is d Pilipins?

    It may bespeak our ignorance of its Hitlerian provenance or our gross insensitivity. It reminds us of the MARCOS! HITLER! DIKTADOR! TUTA chant of the Dark Years.

    On whose hands is the blood?

    I don’t know if the middle and upper classes really feel safer today. I doubt that the masses do, given the anti-poor thrust of failed drug campaigns. Can one imagine Tokhang and house-to-house drug testing in unique Forbes Park? Only in our countless Pobres Parks are these inflicted. The death certificate of Kian may state as cause of death: Duterte’s anti-poor program, which at the least occasioned, if not caused, his demise. On whose hands is the blood?

    So much needless divisive anger and enmity in a non-healing presidency. Sabong in the Supreme Court. Sabong in the Comelec. A seeming catfight between PAO and a Senate member. Also, PAO versus NBI. Also, the Ombudsman? They are co-workers in government?

    Non-lawyer presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella says trust the system, a sea change from what lawyers Duterte, Aguirre, Calida and Panelo do, condemning personalities critical of the Prez.
    Digong met Kian’s parents. Good. He is Prez of all the people. But why make them do “sieg heil?” Then he sends Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido to Iloilo City whose mayor is said to be in some narco-list. Why not simply prosecute him, if the State really has the evidence? Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is in no hurry to go to the Promised Land – or where his foes tell him to go. He is vocal, not silent, about wanting to see the Prez so he can sleep again. As it is he is seen or misperceived as a Dead Man Walking, with a death warrant. Jovie may yet be remembered as a new Jovito Palparan or Rolando Abadilla, seen as butchers.

    A suspect in a station house is reminded that he has the right to remain silent, a human and constitutional right seemingly checked at the Senate door in the Kian investigation, among other probes. The Senate committee on public order and drugs is supposed to probe in aid of legislation. Yet, we have well-meaning Sen. Manny Pacquiao saying to a cop: “If you don’t talk when the public here is watching, you’ll really be seen as guilty.” He should have shown some respect for the Bill of Rights. Senators are sworn to uphold it, a document of distrust in powerful governors, and should correct, not enhance, misperceptions.

    Even a rookie cop Mirandizes a suspect in custody: “You have the right to remain silent, etc.,” showing due regard for the Bill of Rights, so disrespected in the House and Senate, which should work out immunity before making a guest become the tool of his own damnation. Else, they are like Torquemadas of the Inquisition, doing the best thinking and practice of the Middle Ages.

    Immunity of witnesses

    Under US federal law, which may guide us here, Congress may work for immunity of witnesses who testify at congressional hearings, following a certain procedure. If two-thirds of the members of a committee vote to grant it, a request goes to a federal judge, who must issue an order granting immunity. Once granted, nothing the witness says can be used in a criminal prosecution against him.

    Congress itself cannot grant immunity in the US.

    There, congressional staff will typically talk with the justice department before deciding what to do. And before granting immunity, Congress will insist on knowing what the witness would say, which is usually in the form of a written proffer. Staff will first coordinate with the prospective resource person, which common sense dictates, but is not done here. There is a rush to grandstand, preen and torment.

    I trained at Arnold & Porter and know a bit about such routine prior coordination. I would attend Senate hearings in the US Congress as a water boy of sorts assisting senior counsel, such as Joe Califano (he had three secretaries, including a Miss Connecticut), who became a Lyndon Johnson Cabinet member. The courtesy and dignity all around won’t ever be beyond easy recall.

    Why the need for immunity? Because without it, a witness in the US can refuse to answer questions citing the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Once immunity is granted, the witness must answer. But, the US Congress rarely grants immunity. The last time was 2007, when a justice department aide was called to testify about the firings of US attorneys, I am told by Fil-Am lawyer Chuck Medel.

    Our wild probes, so directionless and insensitive, drove two guests to suicide.

    We speak above of procedural due process. For substantive due process, Uber paid a humongous fine of P190 million – for conveniencing the public? On what legally tenable, intellectually respectable and psychologically satisfying basis? But, moot and academic as Uber has paid. No Uber-da-bakod multa po sana, ha? No payment under protest for a test case?

    Anyway, Digong has no known or ballyhooed program to alleviate our traffic woes, now worse than ever. He just does not talk about it. No way out? We may have to agree that always telling the truth may not work or be advisable if we are to maintain relationships in the real world, says Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. You don’t tell a mother about the appearance of a baby with a face only she could love. Be kind.

    On truth telling, Comelec chief Andy Bautista supposedly lied in his SALN. RA 3019 and RA 6713 coexist. There is a report that someone in Mindanao has been charged by the Ombudsman with violating both. I am not privy to the details but some years ago, the Civil Service Commission, if memory serves, decided to change its format to add what Sec. 7 of the Tolentino Law requires of a public servant, to include “. . . a statement of the amount and sources of his income, the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of his personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year.” A good clause. I doubt that Andy Bautista has complied. Indeed, is anyone among our 1.6 million civil servants in compliance?

    Year after year I challenge my studes to show me a form showing compliance by anyone. No one has been able to, despite the promise to pass on that feat alone. I bet Digong does not comply with said excerpt from Sec. 7 (but complies with Sec. 8 of the Salonga Law I sponsored and defended on the floor). I have a copy of his SALN. He names some seven kin in government but does not state who is an asset and who is a liability.

    Before charging anyone for violating Sec. 8, the public servant concerned must be given a fair chance to correct and tell the truth. My/our intent was to punish recalcitrance. The law is more administrative than punitive. But, our law made jobless Chief Justice Rene Corona, a post-midnight appointee named on May 17, 2010. GMA was supposed to be just a caretaker then; a new Prez had been elected.

    Indeed the ban on midnight appointments starts two months before the election. Antedating seems to happen however so that a new Constitution should say only appointments made and published before the interdicted period would be valid, to plug a loophole in the 1987 Constitution which speaks incidentally about ill-gotten wealth.

    Returning Marcos loot?

    Digong said an emissary of the Marcoses offered to return their loot in the billions with some gold bars to boot. We are told however that for every five things he says, to take seriously only two, with three for the comic page.
    Criminal genius, I have often said of Macoy, which could spread in the family by osmosis or descent. I am incredulous, as I write.

    Let us see if we have front page (40 percent) or comic page (60 percent) stuff here. Statesman? Or comedian? Anyway, we again chant, “nakaw na yaman, ibalik sa bayan.”

    The Marcoses may be the last ones to know, as it were, but trust Digong to make things happen.

    “Ma’am, kahiyaan na po ito, labi ni Sir, ?I?m under pressure?? to return to Batac,?I’m under pressure to return to Batac, sabi ni Mam agawin ko po.”

    The Art of the Sandbag.

    And The Deal. Libingan.

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