A qualified admission, with too much implicit denials

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Any freshman law student would tell us that when an accused makes a plea of ''GUILTY'' in his arraignment, but hastens to embellish his plea with a lot of qualifications and reservations, the judge would put on record that such a response is equivalent to a plea of "NOT GUILTY." In fact, silence or a refusal to plead is likewise tantamount to a plea of "NOT GUILTY." Whilst the President is not an accused, and that his address to the nation last Friday evening was not an arraignment, his little admission elicited more questions than it provided some answers to the many puzzling mysteries in the Mamasapano affair.

There is also a term in the study of law called "NEGATIVE PREGNANT," a contradiction in terms. For how can there be a pregnancy when the test result is negative. But it precisely describes a situation when one admits to an accusation in one breath, and qualifies the admission with a lot of denials in the next breath. Yes the President humbled himself by admitting over-all or command responsibility, as "father of the nation" for what happened to his forty-four "sons." It happened under his leadership. It will haunt him all his life. Well and good. We salute him for such a bold admission. It takes a man to do that, albeit quite belatedly.

But that was all there was to it. The President did not admit that he decided to by-pass the chain of command. He did not explain why DILG Secretary Roxas and Acting PNP Chief General Espina were excluded from the loop. The President did not explicitly say that the suspended PNP chief, General Alan L Purisima was calling the shots and giving instructions to the SAF Ground Commander, Colonel Napenas. Much less did the President admit that General Purisima was getting orders directly from him. The President, in one breath, accepted the much awaited Purisima resignation, and on the next breath, was praising his friends to high heavens.

There was no statement that Purisima was at fault. In fact, right after the President's address, the Presidential friend / general suddenly appeared after many days of hibernation. And he denied any responsibility. He demurred that he was in fact, in Nueva Ecija at those precise hours. Well, the defense of alibi, as any freshman law student would tell us, is one of the weakest defenses. Granting without admitting, that he was in his Nueva Ecija alleged mansion, that did not discount the possibility of command by remote control. By the way, if the good general was not at all responsible, why did he have to resign? And why timed it at that, with some dramatic suspense?

When one whom you respect is obviously not telling the whole truth, and when his friendship with another is made more primordial than the national interest to know the whole truth, you become more confused than enlightened. When a person you hold in high esteem appears to humor you with an obvious half-truth, would you not be tempted to lose confidence in him?  There is a latin maxim in law: "FALSUS IN UNOS, FALSUS IN OMNIBUS" Falsehood in one, falsehood in all. The President is an honorable man. He is decent and appears to be honest. But his PR advisers are not handling his image well.

He is being fed with scripts obviously written by some who do not know human psychology.

I was in the college of law when the President was addressing the nation. And I heard the law students responding in chorus: "Oh Come on. We were not born yesterday. Tell that to the marines." To which some professors quipped:  "For testimonial evidence to be believed, it must emanate from a credible witness. And it must be credible in itself." At which point, we retorted: "We rest our case, Your Honor."

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