Philippine Commentaries

Read Malaya's daily commentaries on economic and political developments that shape Philippine society. Veteran Filipino journalist Joy C. de los Reyes is the paper's editor-in-chief of Malaya, an independent daily newspaper in the Philippines. To visit Malaya's website, just click the Malaya link below.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Targeting the judiciary?

Rep. Satur Ocampo had a court order allowing his departure last weekend for Geneva where he was scheduled to give a briefing to an Inter-Parliamentary Union-sponsored meeting on the mounting human rights abuses under the Arroyo administration. Ocampo, however, was held at the airport on the strength of a hold-order issued by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. He was allowed to leave only after arguing it out with Gonzalez and presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor.

But before he was allowed to board his plane, Ocampo had to execute an affidavit that while in Geneva he would not engage in acts that violate Swiss and Philippine laws. What sort of undertaking was this? And what was its worth as a commitment? Did Gonzalez and Defensor really believe Ocampo was going to Geneva to commit illegal acts?

It was probably meant as a face saver for Gonzalez , but it only highlighted his seeming penchant to thumb his nose at the judiciary.

An information for rebellion has indeed been filed by Gonzalez’ prosecutors against Ocampo and the four other members of the Batasan 5. But if the court had already determined that Ocampo was not a flight risk by giving its consent to the trip, by what right did Gonzalez second-guess the judge?

More, the Supreme Court has ordered that the preliminary investigation of the rebellion charges be stopped pending its action on the Batasan 5’s claim that the investigation was arbitrary and the prosecution panel was biased.

While the Supreme Court ruling came after the fact – the DOJ had completed the investigation and had filed the charges – a more respectful justice secretary would have instructed his prosecutors to bow to the high tribunal’s wisdom.

Gonzalez, however, chose to contest the SC’s ruling, saying there was nothing to restrain because the charges had already been filed.

What arrogance.

Gonzalez has been striking out at trial judges who have ruled against the DOJ. Remember the intimidation that prompted the original judge in the rebellion case against the Batasan 5 to inhibit herself from the case?

Is it now the administration’s game plan to bring the judiciary to heel?

The Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional the edicts of this administration that seek to clothe itself with authoritarian powers. It has shown itself to be a bastion of the people’s rights and civil liberties.

In the mind of administration, this apparently makes the judiciary fair target for demolition.

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