Impunity or the rule of law?
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2017 - 4:00pm

Here we go again facing a choice between impunity and the rule of law. I agree with President Duterte to let the investigation go first and determine who were guilty for the Dengvaxia mess. 

The next question is if we do find who the guilty party or parties were, what should we do? This is the more difficult question because Philippine governments are loath to punish the guilty except in the case of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was just whisked out of the airport and imprisoned for six years at the Veterans Memorial Hospital.

Former President Benigno Aquino III and members of his Cabinet were condemned for his government’s unfairness but he would not budge.

I was in London at the time and was staying in Amal’s house because her mother Baria was a close friend. We passed by Amal’s flat in Kensington to get her laundry and that’s where it all began. I told her GMA’s story and found this was her expertise – politically motivated punishment of political enemies. I did not know it then but she has a retentive memory and remembered all I said that morning. She is now more known as the wife of George Clooney because less is known about the reputation of the legal firm she works for.

Amal Alamuddin Clooney works for the Doughty Chambers Law firm. Its offices are in Doughty Street in London but they have opened a branch in the Hague since most of the cases brought before them are concerned with human rights and international law.

The firm’s barristers advise individuals, NGOs, governments and international organizations on matters of international law.

“The Doughty Chambers has developed particular expertise in international human rights, jurisdiction, diplomatic and consular law as well as immunities, international sanctions, regimes and corporate social responsibility issues. Doughty Street’s media-law advice also often includes an international dimension. Where required, Chambers draws on an extensive network of local lawyers in other jurisdictions to ensure comprehensive advice and representation for clients dealing with issues in multiple forums.”

Among the cases the Doughty Chambers has taken up are major cases on national security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (e.g. A and others v SSHD, Al Skeini, Al Jedda, Binyam Mohamed v FCO, Al Rawi v Security Services, Serdar Mohammed v SSD), in leading cases such as the “Mau Mau litigation” (Mutua and others v FCO) on historical abuses in Kenya or Jones v Saudi Arabia on state responsibility and torture, in cases regarding compulsory purchase (e.g. HMB Holdings v Antigua) and in large private international law group litigation claims against multinational companies (e.g. Motto v Trafigura and Guerrero v Montericco).

Doughty Street barristers “have trained the British and US military, NATO, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, judges and lawyers in countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Libya, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda.”

It has been suggested that I ask Amal if she could handle the Dengvaxia case since it involves an abuse of government powers that inflicted damage to many Filipinos. We do not know just how many victims there are but they are out there and we will know the extent of the damage only after it happens.

“Amal Alamuddin now Clooney is a barrister specializing in international law, human rights, extradition and criminal law. She has represented clients in cases before the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as in domestic courts in the UK and US.

She provides advice to governments and individuals on international law, and has been appointed to a number of UN commissions including as adviser to Special Envoy Kofi Annan on Syria, and as Counsel to the Inquiry launched by UN human rights rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC into the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations.

She is fluent in French and Arabic and has particular expertise in international criminal law and the Middle East region. But she also handled cases in our region.”

Among them is Cambodia vs. Thailand. She handled the case of a “request for interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear. Representing Cambodia in inter-state territorial claim (International Court of Justice, The Hague).”

For the moment we will keep our silence while the investigation takes place.

On July 18, 2016, then Health Secretary Dr. Ubial signed a resolution to defer the program until the vaccine was proven safe.

“But during the budget hearing, there was a lot of pressure in Congress to expand it to other parts of the country with higher cases of dengue, which is Region 7. I didn’t give in to the pressure of Congress. I told them I cannot expand to other areas because the recommendation of the expert panel,” she narrated.

“But I was pushed to get a second opinion?

And so on Sept. 28, 2016, Ubial not only gave the go-signal to continue the dengue vaccination program but even expanded it in Cebu. A total of 123,000 Cebuano kids got the risky vaccine.

Other groups have also come forward. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) described it as plunder and urged the Senate to investigate Aquino, Abad, Garin and other officials. 

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee is investigating former President Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Health Secretary Janet Garin, and other officials for plunder over the alleged anomalous purchase of Dengvaxia vaccine.

“The VACC is respectfully requesting this body to recommend the investigation of the following persons in connection with the anomalous purchase and administering of Dengvaxia vaccine to more than 833,000 Filipino children,” VACC general counsel Ferdinand Topacio said.

The investigation for plunder goes as high as former President Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Abad and former Health Secretary Garin. Other accused were  former Undersecretary Boy Gako, former Undersecretary Kenneth Hartigon-Go, Undersecretary Lilibeth David, Undersecretary Bayugo, Undersecretary Taino, Assistant Secretary Lyndon Lee Suy, Asec. Santiago, and other persons. 

He said “former Secretary Abad, in a memorandum, recommended the release of the fund, but that is not in the GAA. Such fund was released in the authorization of former President Aquino.” 

The funds amounting to P3.5 billion were supposedly released after Aquino met twice with Sanofi officials in Paris in December 2015, Topacio alleged.

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