Dispatch from Crame No. 446: Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s further thoughts on PDI’s Filipinos of the Year 2018, in relation to the latest ruling of Judge Alameda


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After issuing Dispatch from Crame No. 445 yesterday, I couldn’t help reflecting further on the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s choice for Filipinos of the Year 2018 – the four (4) “courageous judges” who were honored for “rendering judgments that satisfy the people’s clamor for justice, at a time when key institutions or their stewards seem to be under political pressure or payroll.”

For all that the voting process was reportedly “hardly contentious”, the implication is deeply unsettling. To be clear, the recipients are truly well-deserving of the honor, and so are all the other nominees, and I laud the PDI for its choice. But this compels us to ask an unsettling question: why are judges – officers of the least political of the three branches of government – being honored for doing what is supposedly the most basic and simplest definition of what they are duty-bound to do?

This question becomes even more pressing in light of the most recent decision of Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati – RTC Branch 150, to deny the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Senator Sonny Trillanes questioning the earlier ruling that there was “factual and legal basis” for President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572 revoking the amnesty given to Sen. Trillanes by then President Benigno S. Aquino III on the ground that no application for amnesty was filed.

This ruling is a deeply disturbing reminder of the state of our justice system as the judge basically abdicated his duty as a trier of facts and as an officer of justice, as it flies in the face of evidence to the contrary. These include a reporter who testified that he saw Sen. Trillanes apply, and the fact of the amnesty itself, which triggers this Administration’s favorite presumption: the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty. If an amnesty has been issued, there is a presumption that the same was issued in the regular performance of duty.

It is not up to Sen. Trillanes to prove anything because said application, by its nature, was supposed to be filed and turned over to the custody of the government, which now issued a self-serving Presidential Proclamation suddenly denying its existence.

Since it is a self-serving declaration, the least that the Makati judge ought to have done is to require the Government to rebut the presumption of regularity of the issuance of the amnesty. Until and unless such presumption is rebutted, it is NOT Sen. Trillanes’s burden to prove that it does exist.

And, in fact, he did prove it anyway by presenting the reporter who was reporting on events as they happened long before any controversy ever arose. This is supported by other evidence, such as a certification from the Department of National Defense (DND) stating that Sen. Trillanes submitted an application for amnesty, wherein he admitted specific crimes, such as mutiny. These evidence are key since the application is in the custody or under the control of adverse party.

Instead, the judge ruled that he is “not convinced that there is still a need to conduct a reception of evidence to rule on the factual issues…” Oo nga naman, it is hard to convince someone who has willfully averted his eyes from the truth. Sayang si Judge Alameda. If only he had the courage to stand up for truth and justice, and against the tyranny of weaponizing the law to perpetuate oppression, maybe he, too, would have been named Filipino of the Year. All he had to do was the bare minimum – and yet, apparently, that is too much to ask of a judge these days, esp. those handling high-profile and sensitive cases.

These days when facts and logic seem to have no place in this repressive regime, where even courts are being bullied into becoming weapons of tyranny. Injustice, indeed, is not merely the absence of justice, but the perversion of it that turns right into wrong, and wrong into right. We have, indeed, fallen into an upside-down world and the monsters are real.

So, this year, 2019, we need more heroes to emerge. More heroes like the judges who were ultimately chosen, but also like the other nominees, who are all in their own ways Filipinos of the Year 2018. This isn’t supposed to be a competition where only one can win. We need all the heroes that are brave enough to step forward. Though they may be hailed as such for doing the simplest thing, we know that they deserve the recognition because when things get tough, it takes persons of character to even keep going.

So yes, I hope that each Filipino emerges as a hero in 2019 – even if it is “just” to do the right thing under difficult and tempting circumstances. Even if it is simply because they went out to use their votes wisely by not selling their votes for a pittance, and instead choosing leaders who know what a public servant is and who are willing to be that for us Filipinos.

That’s how I hope the Filipino of the Year Award for 2019 will be decided. A year when every Filipino stood up to be a hero for himself and for others.

Perhaps it is high time that we stop looking to others to save us, and about time that we see the hero in our own reflection. Because heroism isn’t in the act of doing the right thing, but in the courage to choose to do it against fear and temptation. ###

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