‘Nandiyan po ba ang mister ko?’ ‘Secret’ – Manila police

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RENE SAGUISAG

THE other afternoon, I got this text from San Beda College of Law, Mendiola, on the 2016 Bar exam results: 1st takers 98.08 percent – 154/157; Retakers 91.67 percent – 77/84; Overall 95.85 percent – 231/241.

The year 2016 has turned out to be the year of Promdis, beginning with Prez Digong, validating that for a good stude, no such thing as a bad school, or for a bad stude, no such thing as a good school. UP, Ateneo and San Beda, from Imperial Manila, were shut out of the Top 10 for the first time. Bokya.

Kudos to the passers, particularly the Top 10. I wonder how many of them will go to human rights advocacy, which may guarantee only psychic income, a downside if one wants to be in government, which bids them welcome. Fine, but I wish a few of them would be like some of the jurassic remnants and relics of FLAG and MABINI, human rights addicts, toiling pro bono (puro abono). Am I glad that Zamboanguena Athalia Liong (No. 3) “was inspired by my father, a human rights lawyer” (PDI, May 4, 2017). While Bedan Ruth Casino would just be a kalabit away from activist Teddy, for consultation. RamilComendador, a Comelec janitor, was inspired by Rene Sarmiento, his Comelec boss, to go into law. Bedan Rene of FLAG, also co-founded MABINI.

It is said that the reasonable man adjusts himself to the world while the unreasonable man adjusts the world to himself; therefore, all progress depends on unreasonable people. A member of the committed, working rich, Energy Secretary Gina Lopez, went through a test of fire, and got barbecued. But Gina, keep going, for our children and their children, while singing Edith Piaf’s “non, je ne regretterien.” You have fought the good fight.


PNP Top Gun Bato de la Rosa, we hope, is reasonable. He has renewed his challenge to duels (illegal, under Articles 260 and 261 of the Revised Penal Code), but has not, thankfully, renewed his order to his men to “burn, baby, burn,” where druggies live. Why indeed jeopardize innocent kin and the neighborhood? Notice how he trivializes the Constitution whose Bill of Rights outlaws secret detention places, solitary confinement, or being held incommunicado [Article III, Section 12(2).

These used to be done in “safehouses,” where a detainee was anything but safe, in or out of a camp, or similar facility. An oxymoron.

The time between one’s arrest up to the time of acknowledgment of that custodial arrangement is the most dangerous. Anything can happen. On such admission of arrest and whereabouts, Meralco treatment (electric shock), Nawasa treatment (water cure), desaparecido, and salvaging (another oxymoron, like “safehouse,” where no one is safe) disappear as options.

Indignities such as long waits, pix-taking, body search, finger-printing, being made to take off one’s shoes or given the runaround, etc., we learned to live with, in exchange for seeing a happy, relieved face of a detainee upon sight of counsel.

Recently, I tried to visit Senator Leila de Lima one morning, when I was in the Crame area. I was told nyet as I was not listed as among her lawyers then (I had signed her court petition). The custodians could just have checked with her then, or with Panyero Betong Sawali, who was with her at the time, I was to learn. Feeling under the weather, I didn’t press, and indeed I was back in Makati Med shortly thereafter. (In 1972-1973, I tried to see detainee Flu Ortigas, on the request of the late Raul Roco. No dice. Snake eyes. Flu and I reconnected recently, if my memory is true. At Bantayog?)

In Laguna long ago, the colonel-in-charge denied that RM was in his custody when in fact the latter was just behind that wall; RM restrained himself from shouting as with us were his wife and very young son, for whom the experience could be traumatic. You could tell when the colonel was lying: his lips moved.

OK, more details thereon: on December 27, 1980, Jojo Binay, Jojo Cueva and I, with our families (one for each), motored to Laguna. We deposited our families in Pansol. We then proceeded to Santa Cruz to see Col. Pedro Lumbres, head of the local PC Command, to ask permission to see RM, who had a P50,000 bounty on his head as an alleged key personality in the April 6 Liberation Movement. “RM who?” Col. Lumbres asked, disingenuously, unconvincingly, the wife, TJM, with son (AM, four years old then, now a strapping young man I met at the Ateneo recently), who were with us. RM was there, just meters away, it turned out!

We had known from sources in this society without secrets, that RM had been there since on or about December 3, 1980. We had learned he had been caught, with four others, that they had been grilled, etc. I reconnected with the wifey at People Power Monument, or Bantayog, recently, again, if my memory is true. I recalled the unsayable pain we then shared.

Col. Lumbres, in our view, unreasonably denied RM’s legal/ constitutional right to counsel, and worse, his Christian, human right to see and reconnect with his wife and son.

On this, the tenth month of Digong’s reign, we continue to wish and pray for his success. But, he should have a higher regard for human life, liberty and dignity, and not press for the return of the death penalty (which now seems dead in the water?). It is anti-poor, which cannot be cured by a clause saying that the first quintet to be hanged daily should be only the wealthy, to kill the anti-poor issue.

I am amazed certainly at Digong’s pace, travelling abroad even on Holy Week, without getting under the weather, or confined in bed, as I have been, for much of the last few weeks, on and off.

The use of my finger, ridden by gout or arthritis(?),for emailing has just returned. I have been confined at Makati Med thrice in the last few weeks and I can only sigh, to its efficient and kind staff, “we cannot go on meeting like this.” I can only envy Digong in this respect whose partner, Honeylet, is a nurse. (My late Dulce was my nurse, indeed, my everything.)

His situation creates protocol problems in official functions. And what do we do with parties being prosecuted who say they are in the same adulterous-concubinage situation as the ScoffLawPrez, flaunting his flouting of the laws of God and man? Like cases, like treatment? Equal before the law? May it be administered with an unequal hand? “Kung ang Pangulo po may mga kulasisi, . . .”

And look at what the House of Duterte has done to the state policy on dynasties in Article II, Section 26, of the Constitution. Prez Duterte, Mayor Duterte and Vice Mayor Duterte. In your face, Movement Against Dynasties (MAD)!

But again, as a fan of Nanay and Lola Soledad, the Duterte matriarch of happy memory, I wish them well even if on some issues, we are simply fated never to understand one another. We just have to keep plugging for change, the capacity for which we cannot underestimate.

Impeachment of Digong is dead in the morgue. What about Leni’s? So should it be, for merely echoing what many have been saying, here and abroad. A powerless Veep in our system cannot commit serious mischief that strikes at the very heart of a working government, if we go by the nature of that extraordinary remedy, a national inquest into the conduct of public men (a term which embraces women). Lies, we confront with truth. More speech, not less.

“When they went after her, I did not speak cuz I am not a partisan type. When they went after the Inquirer, I did not speak, for what did I care? When they went after the oligarchs, I did not speak as I was not one of them. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Digong asks for more time to deal with drugs and endo. The difficult he may do right away, the impossible may take longer. Like, how do we lay the economic foundations of honesty by paying our people above the level of corruption, cum health care and pensions?

Enough of Kill-Kill-Kill or Impeach-Impeach-Impeach! Very few positives. But, it has not been a year. Patience. And let us see where the new lawyers will go as they spread their wings and help give our people a better life.

BTW, two Bedan Law alums, Gentleman C Digong and bar topnotcher (1985, No. 8) Leila, are among Time’s 100 Most Influential People (Time, May 1-8, 2017).

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