Friday, October 17, 2014

Double standard of justice, selective justice or mockery of justice?


Sandiganbayan.
The provisions of the law of the Philippines on Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices are quite explicit. For incumbent public officials against whom criminal charges have been filed for violation of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act it is mandatory that they be suspended.

Under normal circumstances the power of suspension lies in the court in which criminal charge is filed. According to the said Act any public officer may be suspended if the charge involves 'dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or gross neglect in the performance of duty', among other considerations. The reason is that continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him or her. 

The provision is supposed to be unequivocal and mandatory if it should be followed.

'If it should be followed'? But do we really care about these things still? Like, whether or not our anti-corruption laws are really being followed? 

We don't have an all-seeing eye, of course, and rely only on what media feeds us, media that has access to information not immediately available to us, media that plays a part in shaping our thinking in a positive way, or in many cases, in a negative way like dumbing us down without our even knowing it. 

And we pay special attention to intrigues and scandals or scams.

Like the internationally renowned Philippine Fertilizer Scam of 2004, Pnoy's biggest issue during his election thus he decidedly made anti-corruption his administration's centerpiece. The pork barrel scandal occurred in 2013, during his time, but he insists that's nothing compared to the fertilizer scam: 

President Benigno Aquino III

"... he (PNoy) said the PDAF controversy is nothing compared to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam during the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"Compare mo sa fertilizer scam, gaano kalaki ang diperensiya? And yung fertilizer scam is the tip of the iceberg, marami pang iba," he said."



“I expect that this year (2011), we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty,” said Aquino, whose presidential campaign in 2010 was anchored on his fight against corruption."

Palakpakan naman. We cheer! Only to realize, when things have subsided that those statements are directed pala, as it is manifesting before our very own eyes now,  to those who are not his allies in government. Sample:

Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo


"The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has ordered the arrest of Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo and five other persons for malversation of P5 million in public funds, in one of the hundreds of dubious transactions made in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam..."


This story came out shortly after charges were filed against Dimaporo before Sandiganbayan, that tries cases involving public officials for their misdeeds. The article goes on to state that: "Dimaporo is the fifth lawmaker to be implicated... after Representatives Oscar Gozos of Batangas province, Federico Sandoval of Navotas City, Nanette Castelo-Daza of Quezon City, and Carmencita Reyes of Marinduque province."

Again, the fifth to be implicated, after Carmencita Reyes of Marinduque and former representatives Gozos, Sandoval and Castelo-Daza.

Further to the story:  
"(O)n the recommendation of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Roland B.Jurado has denied bail to Dimaporo in the malversation charge."
Dimaporo is a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC). 

"Last week, Dimaporo was charged by the Ombudsman with malversation of public funds and graft for the purchase and delivery of 10,000 bags of Saka organic fertilizers worth P5 million..." . 


Poor guy. Immediately, Dimaporo's colleagues in Congress tried to come to the rescue by issuing a Resolution that he be allowed to post bail for the unbailable charge of malversation of public funds. But he is not a member of the ruling party, so sorry. Then what happened?

"As this developed, House Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the House of Representatives could not prevent the Sandiganbayan from arresting Dimaporo because the Lanao congressman’s case is a non-bailable offense.
I don’t think we can do anything,” Belmonte said. He added that Dimaporo’s case is similar to the plunder case of former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which is also a non-bailable offense."


Ganun naman pala. Then we read about the same fertilizer scam case involving the incumbent Marinduque governor:

Gov. Carmencita O. Reyes
Item: "Almost 3 years after being charged, Marinduque provincial governor Carmencita Reyes and agriculture officials will finally stand trial for graft and illegal use of public funds related to the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.
"Ombudsman prosecutors filed their pre-trial brief on Tuesday, January 8, before the graft court’s Second Division. Reyes’ arraignment has been set for January 14 at 1:30 pm."

So, same scam case, exactly the same amount involved (Php 5M), exactly the same process undergone. If the media report is correct, then in fact, the Reyes case was the first to be filed, and, going by the presidential assurance - "these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty."

Same graft and malversation cases were filed against Reyes in 2011. But Carmencita O. Reyes was never meted with suspension from the time the Office of the Ombudsman' Field Investigation Office filed the complaint, after years of investigation, in July 2008.

The Office of the Ombudsman moved for institution of criminal and formal inquiries against Reyes along with others involved in the conspiracy, their names already mentioned above. Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro signed the approval for the filing of charges on April 14, 2011, or three years later. That long. And now 2014, she will stand trial for graft and technical malversation.

If a Philstar report is correct, Reyes was allowed to post bail not only for the graft case (RA 3019 Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) but also for the malversation charges (Act No. 3815 Revised Penal Code of the Philippines) for a total of Php 60,000 for the two cases.
  
Reyes is a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). Poor, incumbent representative Dimaporo of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), under hospital arrest after a warrant was issued.

Spot the difference? Then shall we just sit back and idly watch another reality show go by? Think about it.

"Equality before the law in a true democracy is a matter of right. It cannot be a matter of charity or of favor or of grace or of discretion."  


- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge

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