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A charade scripted with impunity

A charade scripted with impunity
Ronald Roy  -April 23, 2008

       Under the 1935 Constitution, no one could be President for more than eight consecutive years. The presidency was a two-term affair of four years each, and it was at this time that Vice President Diosdado Macapagal, titular head of the Liberal Party, became the President of the Republic upon the demise of President Ramon Magsaysay in a plane crash.

       The party’s nomination for the standard bearership for President in the ensuing presidential election would be contested by another party stalwart in the person of Sen. Ferdinand E. Marcos. But rather than be embroiled in what could turn out to be a destructive internecine rivalry, both men forged a gentleman’s agreement whereby Dadong would be the party’s candidate for the first term and Andy for the second term.  But Macapagal, who eventually won the election, chose not to be a gentleman when he reneged on the agreement.

       Over and beyond Dadong’s genetic flaw being passed on to his daughter, Gloria’s insistence that Erap abide by the pardon’s prohibition against his return to power, albeit signed by him, is null and void for being repugnant to public policy,  For, no elective public office, especially the presidency, can be the subject matter of any private agreement between or among contending candidates to the same position, to the detriment of what is meant to be the electorate’s unfettered right of suffrage.

       Besides, we’ve always known that Gloria, perhaps conscience-stricken over having unconstitutionally booted Erap out of office, and also having cheated her way to Malacañang at the expense of Ronnie Poe, devised a devious pardon scheme in a futile attempt to create a veneer of legitimacy and respectability.  It’s almost all over, Gloria.  Pray that Nani does not spill the beans.

*                                   *                                   *

       I almost fell off my seat last week when I learned that Gloria Macapal-Arroyo’s erstwhile Secretary of Justice, Hernando “Nani” Perez, would finally face trial before the Sandiganbayan for extortion, violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) and other felonies, along with his wife Rosario, brother-in-law Ramon Arceo and business associate Ernest Escaler. The Ombudsman decided to file the criminal charges in relation to allegations that they had extorted US$2 million from former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez.  Initially, I was relieved at the thought that I had all along been wrong about Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, whose fitness for the job had always been suspect.  After all, she was Mike Arroyo’s classmate at the Ateneo Law School, one of the undersecretaries of the DOJ Secretary Perez, and had always been perceived as interested in going after only the small fish in an exceedingly dishonest government.

       But then, with 2010 being just around the corner, this was the perfect time for Gloria to embellish a spurious legacy that she was a leader who never brooked corruption. The trial of then the most powerful– yes, “most powerful” if public opinion is to be the yardstick– government man in 2001, appointive or elective, and next only to the President of the Republic, would once and for all put to rest the rumor that his patroness was key to the disposition of a total sum of US$14 million from which she, her husband, and “the boys” allegedly benefited substantially.

       In fairness to Gloria and Nani, during the early months of her administration, they were the scandalously perceived love birds cited in the most unkind scuttlebutt who flirtatiously flaunted power, rocking her new government in a national disgrace before the international community.  Where there is smoke, there is fire. People say this whenever prone to judging others without evidence.  Unfortunately, for Gloria and Nani, it was in this mood that their imagined interlude generated a public reprobation for the moral debasement of a national elective office no less than the presidency.  People are naturally jealous of the high moral level in which this office is regarded, especially if it is occupied by a woman, a symbol of our grandmothers, wives and daughters whom we hold dearest to our hearts.

       I give Gloria and Nani the benefit of the doubt, being victims of prurient rumor-mongers.  It was only an illusion of truth which partly resulted from speculation that Gloria and her husband were estranged, as evidenced, for instance, by front page pictures and videos showing Gloria to be recoiling at Mike’s congratulatory embrace on the Edsa stage on the occasion of her oath taking, and also by photos depicting cozy poses between him and a private secretary on board a yacht.  Making matters worse for Gloria and Nani was her often observed unrestrained penchant, with face aglow, for seeking him out in the Palace even before the first morning meeting was called to order, and his habit of bending so low as to obligingly allow her to clasp her hands behind his nape for a buzz on the cheek.

       Which now all goes to show that Gloria and Nani have only themselves to blame if unfounded stories have hounded them like ghosts that may now lay a hex on Nani’s uprightness in his initial battle before the Supreme Court, and later before the Sandiganbayan.  While it may be true that, ideally, Courts of Law operate within the ambit of those statutes, rules and jurisprudence that govern the facts and evidence of any given case, times have changed.  More than ever, the blindfold of legal justice must  be stripped off, given the creeping horror of unabated selective judicial treatments, to give way to the triumph of poetic justice.  Some people call this Karma, the Law of Retributive Justice which is infinitely superior to the textbook wisdom of fallible magistrates.

       Yes, #1717, I am aware of the Palace’s and the Ombudman’s biased statement that the unbailable offense of plunder cannot lie against Nani Perez because the case arose only from one transaction, i.e., not through a series or combination of criminal acts.  But this is precisely what I find disturbing.  A one-transaction scheme can be more easily pulled off, with a quick getaway almost assured in the aftermath, than a necessarily more detectable scheme of two or more criminal acts.  It therefore makes no sense why two or more criminal acts should be punished more severely when these acts in series are more vulnerable to suspicion and discovery than a one-transaction deal.

       If this is the intention of the Anti plunder Law, its purpose then is to make it a whole lot easier to plunder P50 million or beyond; in which case the law can be assailed as unconstitutional for being violative of the guarantees against unjust and cruel punishment, unequal protection and possibly other provisions of the basic charter.

       The advice I can give Mr. Nani Perez, #7932, is simply for him to come clean.  Mr. Perez is a lawyer. Therefore, he knows former Rep. Mark Jimenez’s withdrawal of the criminal complaint, incidentally, is not at all that indispensable to his defense, given such circumstances as the Ombudsman’s belated action and the documented money trail showing how the alleged $2 million kickback was supposedly pocketed by him in the controversial contract of the Argentinian firm.

       I think he should realize that in this, the end game of the IMPSA imbroglio, two prominent Malacañang personalities need him to sustain the cover-up in exchange for a kid-gloves treatment from his former subordinate and good friend, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.  People are not fools, Mr. Perez.  Already, they sense the case against you is a charade scripted with impunity.  For one, I can conjure a number of tactical moves by which you would not have to spend a single second in prison. Probation is one. Now tell me frankly: would it be worth all the shame for you to turn your back on God and your country?  Well, I would not be surprised if you deemed it worth all the eternal discomforts to be in the Devil’s company, if you had all that ill-gotten wealth!

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