In a 2002 en banc resolution of the Supreme Court (SC) in In – Re: Request [of accused Joseph Estrada – Creation of a Special Division to Try the Plunder Case (SB Crim. Case No. 26558 and related cases]– the bracketed material was from the reso of January 21, 2002 in Adm. Matter No. 02-1-07-SC, which was a lie (not to be the last). Erap had not asked for a Special Division.
I then wrote a 2002 defense Constancia, after the style of what Senator Lorenzo Tañada, et al., filed in Javellana v. Executive Secretary, the Ratification Cases, decided on March 31, 1973, with the SC not blocking martial law. Tanny counseled going on record as a deposition for history. We said in our own Constancia for Erap, in relation to the minute Resolution of January 29, 2002, a copy of which we received on March 20, 2002, as correctly reported in an SC publication “In issuing the Administrative Matter No. 002-1-07-SC, the Court acted favorably on the request of the Sandiganbayan to create the Special division to hear, try and decide with dispatch the plunder case and all related cases against former President Estrada and those accused with him.
“The defense requested a re-raffle of the case after the Third Division was left with only one member, . . . The Court deemed it best to create a special division to be composed of members not otherwise disqualified considering `the nature of the Plunder Case [given]the prominence of the principal accused and the importance of the immediate resolution of the cases . . . . in the interest of justice and the speedy disposition of cases, with due regard to the procedural and substantive rights of the accused’.” 3 Benchmark, p. 8, col. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 2002, No. 1)
“The Estradas went public saying they do not recognize the special division created by this Honorable Court. . . .
“1. When the Ombudsman pressed for daily hearings, that was how they probably saw the intent behind the unprecedented creation of a special division.
“2. That is probably how the special division saw it also and scheduled the hearings accordingly.
“3. But, daily or frequent trials week after week in cases where the Estradas find themselves in is impossible for those in the local private bar to adjust to . . . .
“4. Yet, the special division was quick to make its intent plain on the basis of its understanding of its mandate. It wants not `speedy justice’ but `sure and swift justice’ “ as it said in its resolution of February _, 2002, with infelicity reminiscent of some hooded executioners or what happened to the Caeuceascus of Romania.
“5. Swiftness accounts for many of our errors as human beings in an uncertain, imperfect world. As a very young lawyer, undersigned heard the advice, “huwag magmadali, diyan nagkakamali. Speed is not `the end-all and be-all’ of trial. . . .
“6. Swiftness explains why there is an egregious error in the caption of this case, where we were mischaracterized as having petitioned for the creation of a special division. . . .
“7. Its creation partly led to our dismissal as counsel [we were asked to return when the defense began]; we had told everybody and his mother we would throw in the towel if, on the badgering of the Ombudsman, we would be compelled to go three times (and later four or five times) a week on very short notice. We had not bluffed; Atty. Jose Flaminiano said we were not machines made of impervious steel. Of the nine litigators on our team, eight are senior citizens. . . .
“8. Thus, we have a special division created to speed up the trial and yet, ironically, was not able to hold a single session to receive evidence in March, 2002. . . .
“9. The wrong, egregious features or traits are making the trial ‘special.’
“10. With all due respect, the defense panel cannot apologize for making it hard for the state to send the Estradas to death [the penalty then for plunder]; if the latter must be subjected to lethal injection it should be without any taint that they got less than the best possible defense. If those elected to high public office cannot get due process, who can?
“11. Two days a week was tough but we cooperated but we became, by force of circumstances, the weakest link in the effort to obtain `swift and certain justice.’
“12. The creation of a special division – without one for the Marcoses for instance and Mrs. Marcos will be arraigned only in June in one of her cases – has to be explained not to us who are out of the case forever, but to history. There was one for General Yamashita, but the last American Governor General here, Justice Murphy, wrote that it was no way to treat a `fallen enemy commander.’
“13. In fact a special division holding frequent trials is possible only where. . . . b) the magistrates given the assignment have a good explanation why they are doing nothing else or little in the hundreds of other cases they normally would be held to account for by this Honorable Court, and c) a defense team is similarly situated, meaning only PAO lawyers and new ones or other Attorneys `alang-kaso.” Otherwise, we had the brutal schedule we had to live with from which we are now out forever with a sense of relief; . . . The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and other bar associations, very far from the case, also criticized us without trying to see what it was we were trying to do, trying in vain to uphold the rule of law, constitutionalism, due process, equal protection and human rights –
“14. Where an ordinary accused convicted by a trial court can expect the Office of the Solicitor General to give the record a sober second look as Tribune of the People, here, that Office has announced that it will actively handle the presentation of certain witnesses” Makati, for Manila, April 1, 2002. “
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Special Divisions are programmed to convict, from where we sit. Victor’s Justice.
And there’s a limit to what Jinggoy can go in imitating his father, truly, a man of conviction.
And I share his innocent children’s pain.
Erap’s Special Division should have ruled on whether Chavit Singson was really the object of a rubout manque on October 4, 2000. It did not arguably cuz that would have discredited the testimony of a PMA officer who testified that there was a legit car chase because Chavit’s scofflaw driver beat a red light on Taft Avenue, leading to a car chase that ended at the Western Police District Headquarters on San Marcelino cor. UN Avenue. As the officer, a member of the distinguished Azurin family, also of Vigan, told me, he would have no part in assassinating Chavit. “Why not?” “Cuz kahit po pusa, cats in our place fear him.”
More to the point, rubout sa tabi ng police headquarters? Naaaah. But, the high feelings of the moment, partly generated by the assassination try that never was – carried the day. Chavit, praised to me by Ninoy Aquino for being gutsy, did nothing to Azurin after GMA grabbed power, with the help of the Supreme Court almost all of whose members were all at Edsa on January 20, 2011. Later I blundered when I asked them to judge their own cause. No one in the SC said, during our orals, “Mr. Saguisag, if you must know, not only CJ Davide and J. Panganiban were at Edsa.”
Stevenson said some of the cruelest lies are often told in silence.