Pateros burials and impeachment fiesta; death penalty back?

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RENE SAGUISAG

TEENER Carl Angelo Arnaiz, ex-UP stude, was buried last Tuesday in Pateros. By happenstance, over the weekend I got this text message: “Lalli de Vera Lacaba, widow of my late brother, Eman, has just passed away.” It must have come from Pete Lacaba. The Lacabas are from Pateros.

Eman I first saw in 1971, sprawled on the ground, bloodied, barefooted, in front of the gate of a business firm whose striking workers he supported. The case filed against him was tried by Judge Ben Abalos. It was not hard to get Ben to dismiss the case against a fellow proletarian (not lumpen). Weren’t we all?

Eman, in 1974, came to see me in my rinky-dink office in Quiapo to bid goodbye; he said he was going “abroad,” a euphemism for going underground. Two years later, he was killed by the military in Davao. Buried in a shallow grave there, he was exhumed and re-interred in Pateros. In the June, 1976 issue of our IBP Rizal Newsletter (I pamphleteered when I could), I wrote about him:

“Eman Lacaba passed away on March 18, 1976, cut down in the flower of his youth by hostile fire from the army. He was first buried in Davao, without a coffin, and had to be exhumed to be buried in Pateros, on April 9.

“Great names in Philippine literature and journalism were there for Eman [e.g., Nick Joaquin]. A brother of his, Pete, who had just been released after two years as a guest of the State, was there too; he recited a poem of Eman’s (`Kung Ako’y Mamamatay’). The masses for whom he toiled, lived, fought and died were also represented there.

“His friends wept softly and poignantly of the glory of shedding blood for the motherland. There was a slogan attached as a makeshift epitaph to his final resting place, that sacrifice has meaning for those who do not compromise their convictions and principles.

“Eman was a scholar at the Pasig Convento and at the Ateneo. He taught at UP. At 27 he could have been on his way, so to speak. Instead he went to the hills and made, instead of a lot of money, the ultimate sacrifice. But death has no sting for his kind.”

I remember too that in the wake for Dr. Bobby de la Paz at the Malate Church in 1982, on his coffin was this line from “Vincent”: “The world was not meant for someone as beautiful as you.” He was extra-judicially killed by the military, in Samar.

Congressional stylistic mistakes

Eman could have started to work in the legislature and helped prevent Congress from committing remarkable stylistic mistakes. RA 10951 I read about in the Bulletin last Friday. Its Sec. 102, the effectivity clause, I found weird—”This Act shall take effect within fifteen (15) days after its publication in at least two newspapers of general circulation.” I was floored. “Within”? Susmariano naman!

In our jurassic time, recalling Macoy’s secret decrees, publication should be, to me, front and center. I introduced in the Senate the clear “after 15 days” effectivity clause—not the strange “within”—in two national newspapers of general circulation. MABINI had sued on Macoy’s secret laws and won. Tañada v. Tuvera, 136 SCRA 27 (1985) and 146 SCRA 446 (1986).

But, our wise and sagacious solons are more busy probing and squabbling with the TV cameras on, instead of dealing with the nitty-gritty of lawmaking in the quiet of their study. Unadvertised. Too many of our officials seem simply to long for radio-TV publicity.

I will ask my studes to ask their favorite lawmaker what Congress meant by its bizarre formulation, and also the arguable return of judicial murder, of which, more below. (I have promised a passing grade for anyone able to produce a certified true copy of Macoy’s birth certificate; we are told he would have been 100—special—on Monday but I recall that on oath in Honolulu, he said he was born in 1916, not 1917, if my memory is true.)

On uncooperative resource persons, RA10951’s Sec. 15 imposes severe sanctions. It is silent though on seeking and giving immunity to one coerced to surrender his human and constitutional right to remain silent, observed in police stationhouses (presumably). Granting immunity is a judicial power routinely exercised in the US, to help a co-equal branch.

Nowhere in our Constitution can I find any grant to Congress of the power to compel anyone to give up his human and constitutional right not to speak, except when granted immunity, which only the judiciary can, and must grant, not the legislature.

Senate Prez Koko Pimentel, you were No. 1 in the bar. (Speaker Bebot Alvarez is also of course a bar placer; every lawyer has a place in the bar exams. Seriously, Cong. Ronnie Zamora, No. 1 also, et tu?)

Senator Pacquiao told an invited cop: “If you don’t talk when the public here is watching, you’ll really be seen as guilty.” I prefer Prez Digong’s initial formulation that if his kin exercise their right not to speak, and not even give their rank, name and serial number, they should not be seen as guilty. Now he tells them to talk, tell the truth. Let us see what happens.

But, of course we cannot prevent anyone from making an ass of himself by making the Hitler clenched fist salute led by Digong, who asked the Aussie minister to do it; the sandbagged chap did, and got hammered. Here, a guest would pee in his pants if the Prez glares at him for disobedience. Sieg Heil!

Digong talking too much

Talkative Digong now says the Marcoses will return ill-gotten wealth plus a few gold bars, per an unnamed emissary, kuno. Huh? I was and am incredulous. If the Marcoses would offer to return ill-gotten wealth, a lot of problems for them would arise. There could be prosecutions for violations of the Tolentino (RA 3018) and Salonga (RA 6713) laws on SALN, requiring annual written disclosure. There could also be a violation of the income tax law, say, on unreported interest on deposits. For starters.

And who really told Digong about the supposed return? Imee had tactfully denied it. I classified the item as fake news right off and turned down more than one invite to be in a talk show on a non-topic, something that would never happen.

It’s the old problem of Digong talking too much which keeps coming back to haunt us all. He is now trying to wiggle out via his constipated explanations to justify his all too premature ejaculation. The Marcoses married or descended from a criminal genius. To involve Congress would take years. Digong may have created false hopes with his tantalizing announcement; now he and others tell us of the many formidable obstacles that may take forever to overcome, if that. Homework was needed. Not done.

Also pregnant with meaning was Digong’s telling Boy Nograles in a birthday bash for the latter’s son, Rep. Karlo: “You know that I never ordered any of your men killed, . . .” What about others’ men then? Asked if he has ordered anyone liquidated, he may not say “No, I didn’t order any Nograles man killed.” Negative pregnant. Implicit admission via a lame irrelevant denial. Hence, his tough butangero image.

He should really back off and use his Cabinet more to take bullets for him. He should talk sparingly, for distance and deniability. He may also ask, particularly fellow Bedans Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea and Justice Secretary Vit Aguirre, if eagle-eyed Dik Pascual of the Philippine Star is right in asking last Tuesday, whether the new law RA10951 (in its Sec. 3), has restored, the death penalty for treason (the one exception I, opposed to judicial murder in principle, might consider, in wartime, when the very survival of the nation is at stake), through the back door.

The supposed lawmakers may be too busy probing, preening and squabbling to read and review what they are approving, such as RA No. 10951’s effectivity and judicial murder.

Do we forgive them for not knowing what they are doing?

Impeachment process cheapened

I am concerned about the ongoing impeachment festival, which seems to cheapen the process. Impeachment, according to the framers, is a “national inquest” of “crimes or misconduct,” of so “serious and enormous a nature as to strike at the very life or the orderly workings of the government.” Not in a he-said-she-said situation as in the case of Comelec chief Andy Bautista.

The case against Chief Justice Meilou Sereno seems to be an internal quarrel over turf. She was duly appointed. Rene Corona’s was a wrongful post-midnight appointment, which the people, through impeachment, recalled and nullified. The Senate was bribed with pork given a year later? Ha ha. With dissenters, Miriam, Joker and Bongbong holding their peace?

It has been my constant stand that pork is not toxic per se. To suggest that Senate Prez JPE was bribed in his masterful performance seems ridiculous. This Harvard man is not one who will go out of his way to please the Aquinos by perpetrating an injustice.

The attempts to impeach the Veep, the Ombudsman and the Chief Justice, to borrow from Justice Frank Murphy, may satisfy the high feelings of the moment—of some people. But, in the sober afterglow will come the realization of the boundless and dangerous implications of the smorgasbord of impeachments we are being force-fed today.

Here I hail the critical cautionary stand of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

I also hail Prez Digong for meeting with survivors of EJKs, who might think that all they have they would gladly give not to be invited to the Palace in melancholy. They know what or who to put in the certificates of death as its cause.

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