Just joking?
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2017 - 11:44pm

Apparently, Duterte remains popular because of his common touch with the masa. People can easily relate to his manner of speaking because when he talks, it is hard to decipher whether he is serious or not. In fact his spokesmen openly admit that three out of his five pronouncements as President are mere jokes. So he seems to be joking more often than not.

In this connection, it is now appearing that he is just joking when he announced that he will strictly and strongly fight corruption in his administration. If he is not joking here, he should have already fired several officials in his administration even at the slightest hint of their involvement in some corrupt practices.

Barely less than one year in power it has become very obvious that some members of the fraternity in his Alma Mater and their friends and classmates who have been appointed in various positions, are involved in corrupt practices.  And for the sake of brotherhood and friendship, they are trying to cover up their anomalies and protect each other from being discovered and charged accordingly. They seem to be so confident that Duterte will not abruptly dismiss them.

The recent bribery or extortion in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) by the big time gambling lord Jack Lam is a case in point. This Bureau is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice (DOJ) with Vitaliano Aguirre as its Secretary. Three BI Commissioners who are school mates of Digong and who belong to the same law office were recently caught in flagrante with five sacks full of money amounting to P50 million which they would have kept had it not been exposed. And even without any direct lead, the footprints of this anomaly can be readily traced up to the doorstep of the office of the DOJ. Hence, no matter how he denies it and even if it could not be proven with direct evidence that he is really involved, Aguirre should have already resigned; or Duterte himself should have already fired him if he is really serious in his fight against corruption.

Another public perception of the existence of corruption in this government is in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). Its recent move seeking the reversal of the conviction of Janet Lim Napoles really arouses a lot of suspicion. It will be recalled that on April 14, 2015, Napoles was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court for serious illegal detention of her second cousin and former staff Benhur Luy after a two-year trial. She was sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of up to 40 years.

Napoles appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals (CA) where it is now pending. Here, the OSG is supposed to represent the “People of the Philippines,” the opposing party which indicted, prosecuted and secured the conviction of Napoles. It should have defended and argued for and in behalf of the prosecution if and when the CA requires its comments.

Records of the case in the CA however reveal that last Jan. 20, 2017 yet, or barely six months into the Duterte administration, the OSG filed a “Manifestation in lieu of a Rejoinder” dated Jan. 11, 2017 recommending the acquittal of Napoles for said crime of serious illegal detention. This is really quite surprising and alarming because the OSG has surreptitiously turned against the State which it is supposed to represent in the appeal before the CA. More alarming in this connection is that the Solicitor General came out and publicly aired the action taken by his office only yesterday or almost a month after the filing of said manifestation and after its discovery by some investigative journalists.

While it is true that the OSG is not prevented from taking a position adverse to that of its client, and that it also “shares in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice,” the better part of discretion dictates that it should have just allowed the CA to rule on this issue considering that the CA is the proper body to authoritatively decide and rule as to the guilt or innocence of the accused in this case.

It is really hard at this stage to dispel talks and erase impressions that “something fishy” transpired in this latest incident. This is especially true because of the reputation of the parties in this case. Napoles is the renowned “queen” of the pork barrel scam and one of the principals accused in the plunder case together with some lawmakers in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The existence of anomaly in the use of this fund for the projects of some lawmakers, and Napoles’ role in these projects, appear to be self-evident as to create a perception that some form of wheeling and dealing also happened here. In fact, news reports have come out that the Solicitor General and the lawyers of Napoles have something in common. They are all supporters of Duterte. One of Napoles’ lawyers has even been appointed as BIR Deputy Commissioner while another lawyer is a staunchest supporter of Duterte in social media. Furthermore they are also graduates of San Beda College of Law, where Duterte also finished his law course. 

While the serious illegal detention case is different from the plunder case also involving Napoles, people cannot help but entertain the belief that the plunder case will become weak because the principal witness in said case is the victim in the illegal detention case where his credibility has been assailed by the OSG. Indeed analysts have even traced the connection up to Duterte who raised the Napoles issue in a press conference in Davao last Aug. 21, 2016 where he said that the “Napoles case deserve a second look.”

Indeed, the facts and circumstances of these recent incidents show that Duterte is just joking when he stated that he will strictly fight corruption in his government.

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com



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