New order
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno () - September 6, 2011 - 12:00am

Later this week, we will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC. This is an event significant not only for the Americans. The whole world order changed after those events.

None of us anticipated the changes that happened since that terrible day a decade ago. Al Qaeda, years earlier, attacked the World Trade Center complex with a car bomb detonated at the parking basement. Philippine intelligence, since 1995, alerted US authorities about a terrorist plot to use civilian aircraft as large bombs. Little heed was paid our warnings.

I vividly recall the moments after the attack happened. I was having dinner with some friends in a Chinese restaurant when our phones started beeping as frantic messages came in about the attacks. Soon enough, President Gloria Arroyo called and asked us for a draft letter to US President Bush. We abandoned dinner and rushed to my place.

I turned on my television at the exact moment the burning towers started to collapse. It was a terrible sight and I needed a few moments to take in the horror that was happening live onscreen.

“This is Osama bin Laden’s handiwork,” I immediately concluded. My surprised political science colleague, Rene Velasco, asked how I knew. He tried attacking the same towers once before, I told him. He is determined to complete that mission.

On that premise, we drafted the President’s letter expressing solidarity with the American people in the war against global terror. The Philippines was among the first to constitute what will later be called the “Coalition of the Willing.”

Since the attacks, the shape and dynamic of global politics altered dramatically. Security against international terrorism became the primal concern. Every free society fortified its facilities, upgraded intelligence capacity and intercepted possible funding flows for the international terror networks. The global effort was evident not only in more stringent security checks at the airports but also in such newfangled controls as anti-money laundering laws.

From the onset, the critical question has been: How may open societies combat this plague and yet retain their openness? If terrorism forces free societies to suspend freedoms, close borders and restrict global interaction, the terrorists would have won. Civilization, as we know it, would have lost.

This was not a war between Islam and Christianity. It was a war between the 21st century and the 12th. This was a war between enlightenment and ignorance, between liberty and dogmatism, between open societies and those closed by terror.

Ten years hence, the most comforting thought, I suppose, is that modernity has triumphed. Freedom did not succumb to fear. There are many inconveniences, to be sure. At bottomline, however, we did not yield to those who chose to speak through senseless violence.

Uncorroborated

With all trials by publicity going on and with all the kangaroo courts in session, it is not surprising the public will be incredulous when anyone is cleared of crimes baselessly imputed. Our civic culture has been diminished by all the reckless finger-pointing and the fact that too many people usurp the roles of judge, jury and executioner without respect for the rigor of judicial procedure.

One recent victim of trial by publicity is former Palawan governor Joel Reyes. His name was dragged into the case involving the murder of an anti-mining activist. An anti-mining advocacy group repeated the charge, without any solid basis. Local politicians from that province began pronouncing guilt without resort to due process.

When the DOJ panel investigating the killing of the anti-mining activist cleared Reyes, rival political factions in Palawan raised a howl. Although they never respected due process in the first place, the rival political groups were quick to claim justice was miscarried.

Did they expect the former governor to be damned by the say-so of a notorious criminal that is uncorroborated by anyone else, including those who did undertake the crime under the glare of CCTV cameras. The gunman, Marlon Recamata, confessed to the crime and was indicted for it. Armando Noel, Arin Arandia and Dennis Aranas served as lookouts. They all confessed to their roles and are indicted as well.

None of the four mentioned anything about Joel Reyes’ involvement. All of the four implicated Rodolfo Edrad a.k.a. Junjun Bumar as the architect of the killing.

Edrad alone dragged in Reyes’ name. Under intense scrutiny, however, all of Edrad’s claims collapsed under the sheer weight of factual evidence.

Edrad presented nothing more than a photograph showing him with Reyes to claim he was the latter’s “close-in security.” CamSur governor LRay Villafuerte, who also happens to be in the photo, issued an affidavit debunking Edrad’s claim.

Edrad claimed he first met Reyes at noon on a specified date in July 2010. Former undersecretary Tonypet Albano issued an affidavit saying he was with Reyes that whole day and never saw Edrad.

Edrad claimed Reyes ordered the assassination by text message (good grief!) on July 8, 2010. A record of text messages submitted by Edrad’s own lawyer indicates there was no message sent from Reyes’ phone to Edrad’s.

Under every legal principle that protects the innocent from being whimsically implicated, there was no way the claims of Edrad could be used as competent proof of Reyes’ involvement in the killing. There being no other independent evidence indicating Reyes to be a co-conspirator, the DOJ panel cannot but acquit the former Palawan governor.

Those who refuse to accept that the DOJ cleared Reyes should come out with their own competent proof. Otherwise, they should accept the rigorous requirements of due process rather than continue constituting a kangaroo court. Due process is good for all of us.

AL QAEDA ARIN ARANDIA AND DENNIS ARANAS ARMANDO NOEL COALITION OF THE WILLING EDRAD ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY JOEL REYES JUNJUN BUMAR PALAWAN REYES
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