DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 Dec) – President Aquino made the right move when he ordered the Department of Justice to withdraw the information filed against the Morong 43, a group of health workers who were arrested in February by the military in Morong, Bataan on allegations that they were members of the New People’s Army. Coming on the heels of the 62nd anniversary of International Human Rights Day, the gesture was both welcome and timely. It wasn’t only an act that finally rendered justice to the detainees who have been detained on false charges; it was also a repudiation of the mailed-fist policy of the previous administration toward political dissent.
On the other hand, however, Aquino sided with China on the issue concerning the Nobel Peace Prize for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Had it been a matter of principle for the Philippine government, nobody would have howled in protest. But no, the President ordered a boycott of the awarding ceremonies for Liu, in Oslo, Norway, in exchange for the lives of Filipino drug traffickers who were sentenced to death in China. Whoever advised Aquino to snub the Oslo rites in favor of the convicted drug traffickers lacked good taste and balanced judgment.
It’s not that our compatriots don’t deserve another lease on life. The issue is that Aquino grossly desecrated the ideals the Prize stands for by implying that the significance of Liu’s struggle for freedom of expression can be set aside if the lives of ordinary felons are at stake.
Aquino could have opted for a less disgusting quid pro quo with China, or for an honorable one like filing cases against ALL those involved in the bloody aftermath of the hostage-taking in Luneta where Hong Kong Chinese tourists were killed. But pleading for the lives of drug traffickers in exchange for boycotting Oslo? How much lower can we stoop down before the international community? This isn’t diplomacy. This isn’t subservience even, this is insanity.
Voting 7-4-4, the Supreme Court today acquitted Hubert Webb and six other persons who were convicted for the June 30, 1991 massacre of the Vizconde family, in Parañaque. Three died in the grisly killings – Estrellita Vizconde and daughters Carmela and Jennifer. Estrellita’s husband, Lauro, was abroad at the time of the crime.
“The prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt [that the crime was committed by the accused]. Supreme Court pointed to inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution, particularly the testimony of principal witness Jessica Alfaro,” lawyer Midas Marquez said in a press conference immediately after the SC acquitted the convicts and ordered them released from prison.
In a press conference at Vizconde’s home, a visibly irked Dante Jimenez, vice chair of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, called the acquittal “the second death” of Vizconde’s wife and daughters and the “death of the country’s criminal justice system.” He said the blame lies squarely with the SC.
Unfortunately for the SC, the acquittal came shortly after it handed down the unpopular ruling that declared the Truth Commission unconstitutional. The commission, created under Executive Order No. 1 of President Aquino, was tasked to investigate acts of corruption during the Arroyo administration. The Court’s decision on the Vizconde case will create more doubts on its integrity in that not a few would agree with Mr. Vizconde’s accusation that money changed hands when the justices deliberated on the Webbs’ appeal for a review of the case. Between now and the coming days, the Court will find itself besieged on all sides.
So, if it really wasn’t Webb and his chums, then who? Don’t tell me the victims committed suicide. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])