Oath-taking of the newly-elected officers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Catanduanes Chapter, and inauguration of the new Hall of Justice in San Andres
17 April 2017
First of all, I thank all the officers and members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Catanduanes Chapter for inviting me to be part of this significant occasion. I would love to attend, but as you all know, due to supervening events brought about by the Duterte regime, I cannot go myself.
Kung ako nga po ay nakalaya, manggagaling po sana ako sa amin sa Iriga papunta dito. Taon-taon kasi, panata kong makasama sa prusisyon sa aming parokya tuwing Semana Sana, para mahawakan ang imahe ng Santo Entierro at makapagdasal sa Mahal na Ama.
But for the first time in my life, I wasn’t able to join the Good Friday procession. This is why I was engulfed with deep sadness this Lenten Season—a feeling I have really been trying to avoid since the first day of my detention.
Keeping myself busy—reading books, including and most especially the Bible, newspapers and work-related documents—somehow save me from sadness and despair.
Invitations to events like yours also cheer me up and boost my morale as these are indications that many still trust and support me. I am therefore very grateful to all of you. Maraming salamat po, ipinaparamdam ninyo sa aking hindi ako nag-iisa.
I would like to extend my congratulations to the newly inducted officers of the IBP – Catanduanes Chapter. Knowing well the critical role you have to fulfill, I wish you all the best in your endeavors and congratulate you for your future accomplishments.
I also want to commend the turnover of the recently constructed building of the Hall of Justice in San Andres, Catanduanes and the turnover of the Deed of Donation of the right-wing, Provincial Capitol Building to the Judiciary.
There is no doubt that these additional facilities will help the judicial institutions of Catanduanes in fulfilling its mandate. We all know there are numerous cases in our courts that need urgent attention.
We are aware that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Sa kasamaang palad, ito po ang kalbaryong matagal nang pinapasan ng marami sa ating mga kababayan, dahil usad-pagong ang proseso ng katarungan.
The ideal period for resolving cases is only one to two years, but with lower courts continuously confronted with heavy volume of case loads among several other judicial setbacks, cases languish in Philippine courts for an average of eight to 10 years.
Nakakabahala ang patong-patong na dokumento at kasong nakatambak na lang sa ating mga hukuman. Pero ang higit pong nakakapanghina, ay ang isipin kung gaano kadami ang pamilyang patuloy na naghahanap ng katarungan, at ang mga biktimang tuluyan nang nawalan ng pag-asa na makamit ang hustisya.
Such problems need to be addressed to improve the administration of the criminal justice in the country. With this reason, I filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 369 which aims to streamline and strengthen the process of criminal investigation. This proposed bill prescribes a uniform system of preliminary investigation by provincial and city prosecutors and by the state attorneys. Here, law enforcers and prosecutors need to help one another to efficiently build up cases. Mahirap po kasi kung kanya-kanyang diskarte kung saan mabagal ang usad at hindi tiyak ang direksyon ng mga kaso.
As Senator, I commit to push for legislative measures that will significantly reduce the bottlenecks which hamper the courts’ swift resolution of cases. With this fundamental principle, I filed SBN 1345, redefining the mandate of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to make it more responsive to the needs of indigents with legal concerns.
The existing Public Attorney’s law allows the PAO, in the exigency of service, to be called upon by proper government authorities to render service to other persons, even if they are non-indigent.
Nariyan ang PAO para magsilbi sa mahihirap na walang kakayahang ipagtanggol ang sarili sa korte. Madalas na ngang matambakan ng trabaho ang PAO lawyers; tapos may nakakasingit pang hindi naman nararapat sa kanilang serbisyo. Dahil dito, lalong napapagkaitan ang mga maralita na siyang dapat tulungan at pagtuunan ng pansin ng PAO.
Related to this: I filed SBN 1347, or the Hazard Pay for Justice Sector Officials Act, to grant hazard pay to court officials whose jobs make their lives and security exposed to risks not only from criminals but also from natural disasters and armed conflicts. This will include court officials in second level courts, such as judges, clerks, public prosecutors and attorneys.
This bill seeks to provide hazard pay equivalent to an additional 15 percent of the basic monthly salary of officials in Risk-adjacent Courts – declared as such by the Supreme Court due to their proximity to prolonged armed conflicts or disaster-prone areas, whether First or Second Level Court.
This measure also proposes an additional hazard pay of 10 percent of their basic monthly salary to be given to covered officials in Second Level Courts, such as Regional Trial Courts and Shari’a District Courts, which handle criminal cases.
Siyempre, wala na po dapat ikaltas na buwis sa panukalang benepisyong ito. Marapat lang naman pong bigyan ng insentibo ang mararangal at mapagmalasakit magtrabaho, lalo na ang nalalagay sa peligro sa pagtupad ng trabaho.
Amid calls to reinstate the death penalty, I filed my own alternative measure, SBN 368, imposing qualified reclusion perpetua. I stand firm in my opposition against capital punishment. I strongly believe that death penalty is discriminatory to the poor, un-Christian, and has not been proven to deter crime. One of the reasons why I want to be released is to be able to participate in the Senate deliberations on the death penalty once sessions resume and to cast my vote against this kind of punishment.
Kung ang Extrajudicial Killings na dulot ng “war on drugs” ng rehimeng Duterte ay mahihirap lang ang biktima, ganoon din sa death penalty. Mga kapus-palad at walang kakayahang ipagtanggol ang sarili ang mapapatawan ng parusang bitay.
This will also be my response to the calls of some sectors to lower the age of criminal liability. I believe that children are also the victims in crimes that they are involved in. The ones that should be punished are the abuser and syndicates. As an alternative bill, I filed SBN 195, or the Anti-Criminal Exploitation of Children bill, which defines the criminal exploitation of children, and impose higher penalties for all crimes exploiting the minors.
As a prisoner of conscience, I commit this to you: I won’t be silenced. I will continue to fight for what is right and just. With these legislative measures, as well as with your help and support, we shall improve and modernize our criminal justice system to make it more effective.
As lawyers, we are bound by our duty to uphold the rule of law and presumption of innocence, promote accountability, and respect human rights, especially the right to life. Whether we pursue public service or career in private sector, we work towards the same goal: to protect the welfare of our people. It is our duty to guide our countrymen, especially those who do not know the law and their rights.
Sa mga pagkakataong pilit binibili ang inyong prinsipyo, mangibabaw sana ang diwa ng katapatan at pananagutan. Huwag nating pabayaan ang mga kapwa nating inaabuso, o magbulag-bulagan sa ilan na ginagamit ang butas ng batas para makapagsamantala.
Nang malapit na po akong arestuhin dahil sa mga walang basehang paratang ng rehimeng Duterte, nanawagan po ako sa sambayanan, kasama ang IBP at kapwa ko mga abogado:
“Ang paghahari ng batas at hustisya ang kilalang katangian ng ating propesyon. Sa harap ng pinakamalaking kaso ng pagyurak sa batas at paglapastangan sa katarungan, kailan ba natin haharapin ang hamong ito bilang mga tagapagtanggol ng katuwiran at katotohanan?”
As Martin Luther King Jr. said. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Ang hustisya nga po ay hindi basta napipitas o napupulot lamang. Ito ay pinagsisikapan at pinaghihirapan ng mga may malasakit sa kapakanan ng kapwa at ng bayan.
Lagi po nating alalahanin ang aral ng Panginoon, na bilang tao ay dumaan sa matinding kalbaryo at sakripisyo para sa ating kapakanan. Tulad Niya, nawa’y lahat tayo ay tumahak sa landas tungo sa isang makatarungan at maliwanag na kinabukasan.
Maraming salamat po.