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Prophylactic tactic

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2021 - 12:00am

The limits to what the public eye can witness has expanded exponentially given the ubiquity of video recording technology and the availability of social media to share it. With cellphone cameras and closed-circuit television cameras, anything that happens in public spaces can be streamed real time or recorded for later access.

Even our courts used to be public venues veiled in secrecy which the technological revolution could not pierce. The dignity of proceedings, the inhibiting effect on witnesses, anonymity of judges and possible bias in presentation would suffice as justification against any media coverage. But even courts have progressively conceded to the larger interest of transparency, opening up their proceedings or at least the promulgation of judgments to public view via the recording apparatus.

Cameras brought us the images of PNP Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca killing Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio outdoors. We even caught glimpses of the final hours of Ms. Christine Dacera, from the hotel’s CCTV footage and from the private cellphone videos uploaded.

No sub rosa for de la Rosa. In a recent column, we discussed the prospect of re-adapting police cellphone cameras if bodycam procurement remains problematic. Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa has been a champion of bodycam use, following it up from his Senate perch. When he was PNP director general, he actually issued a salutary directive for pilot area usage of bodycams.

It looks as if the only place where there is no video and audio record possible is police custodial investigations. Up to this week, the most read news on media platforms continues to be developments in the Dacera case. The debate on the necessity for recording custodial investigations was highlighted by claims of coercion made by two persons of interest in that case. They alleged that the Makati police forced them to implicate other guests on drug charges. The Makati police denies the accusation.

When Miranda is not enough. The arguments for recording what transpires at custodial investigations are well known. Abuse, unfair tactics, coerced mea culpas. Having a video and/or audio recording benefits both the police and the subjects: one from being unfairly abused, the other from being unfairly accused. The system benefits from the heightened levels of trust and accountability. Recording also expedites trials and the prosecution process. Plus, the bane of paperwork is lessened by a clearer audio or video record. If nothing else, it increases public confidence because of transparency.

There is nothing to stop the PNP hierarchy from adopting this practice as an initiative. Even the Supreme Court may arguably insist on video and audio recordings as indispensable criminal procedure, as a matter of due process, in the exercise of their rule making power. After all, the Miranda warnings itself originated from the Supreme Court (US). But actual legislation, as veteran lawyer and lawmaker Rep. Eddie Gullas of Cebu has proposed, should be the best and most comprehensive method to institutionalize the practice.

Levelling UP. Despite the bad rap the UP is getting from the defense and security establishment, the President has appointed one of its most distinguished alumni to the High Court. Our country’s newest Supreme Court Justice is Jhosep Lopez. He has degrees in political science cum laude and law from the State University. He also served as a former legal counsel for UP and Senate chief legal counsel where he was mentored by UP stalwart, Senate President Jovito Salonga. Justice Lopez raises the UP complement on the Court to three (with Justices Leonen and Carandang). At 57, he is the 3rd youngest justice (only Justices Hernando and Zalameda are younger).

Justice Lopez has been a pillar in the City of Manila’s legal landscape. At both the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Universidad De Manila law schools, he was the mainstay professor for criminal law and constitutional law. This is expertise he will put to good use on the high court. Manila is truly proud of this favorite son who was an elected city councilor and, later, Manila’s chief city prosecutor before being appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2011. One of the most well-rounded personalities to join the court with his local, legislative, academe, executive and judicial background, this decent and dignified soul will be one of the great additions to Padre Faura.

A harder court. We savored Alexandra “Alex” Eala’s maiden win in her very first tournament as a professional. This is on the International Tennis Federation circuit, the bridgeway between the junior tour and the WTA. The 15-year-old Eala was the youngest in the draw and the Manacor tournament’s lowest seed. En route to winning, she defeated several top players, including No. 1 seed Seona Mendez of Australia. In the finals, she trounced veteran campaigner and hometown hero Yvonne Cavalle Reimers, who is 28 years old.

Eala resumed her campaign this week in the second leg of the Manacor event. Just this Tuesday, she faced tournament second seed, 22-year-old Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden in the first round. And she won again. For perspective, Bjorklund is ranked 315th in the world. Eala, for now, is at 1190. In Thursday’s second round, she demolished 24-year-old Alba Carillo Marin of Spain. She is now in the quarterfinals.

At this pace and with her quality play, she may become the first homegrown Filipina to rank high enough to compete in the elite WTA tour and the grand slam tournaments, either through qualifiers or by earning an outright slot. Currently, it is Filipino-Australian Lizette Cabrera who is on that stage but she carries the Australian flag. World No. 3 Naomi Osaka also passed through the ITF on her way to the WTA but couldn’t even manage a win. And here comes Eala winning on her first try. She is only 15 and her best years are still ahead of her. It’s a great boost for her to be getting top notch training from the Rafa Nadal academy. Vamos!

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