The vision and vindication of Jose Mari Velez



LAST Monday, some human rights victims of the Marcoses started getting paid. At long last. This felicitous development, I see from one perspective, as the culmination of the dream and legal effort of human rights victim and detainee Joe Mari Velez. I got to meet him in 1971, at the Manila Hotel, where he was a standout anti-Marcos dynasty Con-Con delegate, through fellow standout delegate Bobbit Sanchez, also gone, who I was assisting. Bobbit was the first MABINI chair.

We three should not be the worst lawyers in town but in 1986, after the Marcoses fled, I doubted whether any Pinoy attorney could tell a class suit from a hole in the ground. (BTW, can Gen. Roy Cimatu tell ecology from such a hole? If Gina Lopez says he qualifies, say, in the Commission on Appointments [to her, Commission on Dis-Appointment]hearing, I’d be comfy to say “give the newbie a chance. Di naman marahil pinabili lang ng suka.)

The class plaintiffs did not have to spend a single singkong duling. All expenses have been advanced by the firm of Kohn, Swift & Graf, which specializes in class actions, and sued the Marcoses in April 1986, in Hawaii, where they were living, and were there served judicial process.

Melvin Belli sued for 21 “named,” not “class,” plaintiffs, including Flu Ortigas, who the military barred me from seeing in 1973. The American Civil Liberties Union and Con-Con delegate Romy Capulong (also gone), sued for Joma Sison and two others.

On September 24, 1992, Bob Swift, from Philadelphia-and recall what they say of Philadelphia lawyers—won for the class plaintiffs, assisted by Sherry, Rod Domingo and Ruben Fruto. I was their go-fer, from my days in the Aquino administration, when it helped that I was seen as Cory, Jr.. (go-fer, while Prez Digong is now said to be China’s go-to guy, like Lebron James or Stephen Curry. Not go-for-this-go-for-that, in short, errand boy.)

Bob’s firm paid for my expenses when I attended a hearing in Honolulu and I heard the jury award $1.2 billion in one form of damage alone! Humongous. Good I was seated firmly and didn’t fall from my chair. (The awards totaled $1.9 billion.)

Then and there, I also met the Trajanos, whose Archimedes, 21, asked Imee on August 21, 1977, at Mapua a “foolish” question. Her sikyu took him out and hours later, he was found very, very dead. Tortured. Taken out. “Salvaged,” a contranym that crept into the language during martial misrule. He had the temerity to ask Imee why she was head of the Kabataang Barangay youth organization. One should not ask about dynasties in a paradise of pedigree. Not amusing at all.

Prez Duterte, Mayor Duterte, Vice Mayor Duterte, whew, may be all qualified but what about the intent and spirit of the Constitution? Art. II, Sec. 26.

Anyway, the fraternal advice on later being sued elsewhere, for Digong, Bato de la Rosa, Vit Aguirre and Joe Calida, is to be more careful in what they say, which can come back to haunt them or their descendants. Wa-is Macoy would coolly asked: “what human rights violations?” But that did not save the Marcoses in Seattle and Honolulu.

The Agnes Callamard brouhaha can be read by those abroad the way Business Insight succinctly put it in its editorial last Monday. “From the day Duterte issued the debate challenge to Callamard, the Palace should have anticipated that something like this surprise visit by the UN Special Rapporteur [on extrajudicial killings]might occur. And it did.”

Natulog na naman sa pansitan? So it seems. The Palace folks may be too busy talking about the Trump invite, which means another expensive junket. Can’t we just shut up and wait for the formal communication? Parang atat na atat.

The Palace, instead of appearing like a startled chicken, could have been advised to say calmly to Agnes, “now that you are here, welcome. Voila! The detailed data, for Luz-Vi-Minda, region by region, district by district, city by city, etc, we have long computerized. See how few EJKs in a country of 105 million rabbits? Permissible collateral damage. We have not been able to prevent them but we are probing and will follow where the evidence will lead, and prosecute, if warranted.” In the tradition of the gendarmes from the Sûreté.

Digong could spice it a bit by saying, “I am not perfect. As the Pope would say I’m a sinner’.” But, we know what he thought of the Pope and his mother. In fairness, Digong said he wanted to apologize. We all blow our tops. Only human.

But, may I add my wee voice to commend Digong for his choice of Nestor Espenilla as replacement for accomplished Say Tetangco, who I met once. Nesting, never. Nesting is the brother of Ruth, our San Beda stude, and brod-in-law of Gonzalo Duque, a Pangalatok. Ruth and Gonz were Bedan law classmates, who worked hard for my Senate run in 1987. I cannot thank them enough.

The Bedan Mafia expands, in many proper, merited and ethical ways, if indirect, for its wonders to perform, that in all things God may be glorified. Cream rises to the top and Nesting bested at least three other qualified candidates. Crème de la crème.

Meantime, those concerned may want to think of some fabled Philadelphia lawyers and what they or their heirs may face.

Note the latest UN voting and our image. Last year, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs continued discussing the decriminalization of all drugs, to destroy the profit motive of syndicates, and to treat users as patients, not as criminals. Hardline is a failed, bloody, obscenely expensive policy, according to Jimmy Carter, George Shultz, Bill Buckley, Nobel Prize laureates, et al.

Again, shall we begin with Rep. Rudito Albano’s medical marijuana bill? As Madame Agnes must know, in France, they kiss a woman’s hand cuz—you’ve got to start somewhere.


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  1. Aphetsky Lasa on

    “…some human rights victims of the Marcoses ..”

    As if the Marcoses are criminals. If they are, why are they still at large and not in jail? After all, they are not in power anymore. The lies that the yellow masters and their minions initiated on EDSA 1 are the same lies that they continuously propagate up to this time. That’s 31 years of being dangerously afraid of their own shadows. The Marcoses humbly accepted their fate, no matter how unjustly given to them, and never in their life felt resentment, because they believed that justice would prevail. Well, they were prophetic. They are still in politics, loved by millions of people. It was bad that the yellows hated them, it made it worse, which is a slap in their faces, when PFEM was finally laid to rest in the LNMB. Bongbong? He could have been (and would be, soon) our VP had these yellow ribbons not cheated him of his winning votes. So, what’s next? Malacanang for the Marcoses, again? The yellows must be so angry and jealous that they wish they could just vanish into thin air to end their miseries, which they brought upon themselves. Karma, especially bad karma, is surely frighteningly true.

  2. Joma Sison. SELDA. Your sympathies are with them apparently. You see them as Marcos victims, we see them as communists who lost the war but now cleverly profiting from their ‘sacrifices’ and ‘sufferings’. How noble.