GOVT INTENT ON JAILING LACSON

(Editor's note: This opinion was submitted on condition that the author's
name be kept in confidence. Parts of the opinion were used in the story by
Malaya publisher Amado P. Macasaet.)

Manila, March 31, 2003 -- In the early part of last year, the Supreme Court
in a unanimous decision referred the so-called "Kuratong Baleleng" case
against Senator Panfilo Lacson, et al., to Judge Yadao of the Quezon City
RTC for further proceedings. Then DOJ Secretary Hernando Perez considered
the decision a victory for the administration but at the same time asked
for Judge Yadao's inhibition to hear the case. Still, Secretary Perez moved
for the reconsideration of the court's ruling, to everybody's disbelief.
Why would one in his sane mind question a ruling in his favor? Obviously,
Malacaņang would have wanted the Supreme Court, to rule that Section 8, a
new provision under Rule 117 of the Rules of the Court, does not prohibit
the government from filing a new information against Senator Lacson for
murder, notwithstanding that the section explicitly prohibits the revival
of the same charge after the lapse of two (2) years after its dismissal.

Not a few suspect that the unstated reason for the motion for
reconsideration is to incarcerate Senator Lacson for a crime which is
unbailable, thus, effectively removing him from the political scene in the
2004 presidential elections. And to make sure that no bail will be granted
to Senator Lacson, the DOJ would disqualify Judge Yadao who has the
reputation for her fairness and honesty.

If, as reported in a news item of TODAY the other day, the Supreme Court
has voted 10-4-1 to reverse its earlier decision which was unanimously
reached without a single dissent, then the turn-around will surely raise
eyebrows on the capacity of the Supreme Court justices to act with
independence and evenhandedness, considering the political implications of
the ruling.

Section 8 of Rule 117 was intended to strengthen the constitutional rights
of the accused to a speedy trial in the sense that if the State has no
evidence against him, even after the lapse of the two-year period from its
provisional dismissal, then he has the right to live his life again, free
from fear that the case, on a whim or caprice, will strike him at any time
like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

True, murder prescribes in twenty (20) years, meaning at any time within
that period, the State can institute the criminal action. But the moment
the case is filed, the State is duty-bound to prosecute the case promptly
and without delay, consistent with the rules of procedure.

It cannot dilly-dally and say "I have 20 years to finish the prosecution."
In other words, the procedural rules are applied hand in hand with the
substantive law on prescription. There is no inconsistency between them.

I understand that the prosecution quibbles that its right to file a new
information against Senator Lacson is not affected by Section 8 prohibiting
the revival of the same case after two years from its provisional
dismissal. But when we consider one's fundamental and basic Constitutional
rights to a speedy trial, due process and presumption of innocence, it is
an outright hair-splitting gobbledygook to raise such a distinction.
Whether you call the reinstatement of the same criminal case by way of a
revival or through the filing of a new information, it would make no
difference as both concern the same acts, the same charge and the same
persons as those involved in the original case.

The real focus of grave concern is the Supreme Court itself whether it has
always lived up to the people's expectations that it decides fundamental
issues, especially those which have, political implications, on the basis
of fairness and justice, without fear or favor.

Many of our countrymen have criticized the Supreme Court in legitimizing
the ouster of President Estrada through means outside the mandate of the
Constitution. Now, will it again deny the presidency in 2004 to a strong
contender by safely tucking him away in jail on the basis of its
interpretation of Section 8, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court?

Now, who says that President Arroyo is not running for President anymore?
(MALAYA)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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