Caloocan bishop: We're facilitating, not obstructing justice

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David on Tuesday denied the claim that he is guilty of obstruction of justice by protecting the witnesses to the slay of Kian Loyd delos Santos. Facebook photo

MANILA, Philippines — Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David on Tuesday said the Catholic Church is not "obstructing justice" by protecting witnesses to the killing of school boy Kian Loyd delos Santos.

 

"I wonder in what way we in the Church have 'obstructed justice' if all we did was provide sanctuary for witnesses upon the parents' own request, and at no expense from the government at that," David said.

 

On Monday, Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the Caloocan bishop could be guilty of obstruction of justice because he is taking custody of the witnesses.

"I honestly think we are actually facilitating, not obstructing justice. Within the specific circumstances of the case at issue, can they blame the witnesses if they feel safer with the Church than with CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group)?" David said.

"Kapag mga pulis mismo ang akusado, kanino pa sila lalapit at hihingi ng proteksyon? Sa amin sila kusang lumapit at humingi ng tulong, hindi sa gobyerno; 'criminal offense' bang maituturing iyon?" he added.

Over the weekend, the father of a witness chose to seek protection of David instead of the CIDG.

The father was initially with the CIDG and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption tried to convince him to change his decision. However, the father made up his mind and placed his child under the custody of the Caloocan diocese. 

David said it is his duty as the bishop of Caloocan to protect the people he is heading.

“For many centuries now, the Church has provided sanctuary for innocent people who fear that their lives are in danger. Walang bago sa ginagawa namin, at hindi kami tumutulong dahil sa pulitika. Tungkulin lang namin ito bilang mga pastol; wala akong alam na batas na nilalabag namin,” he said.

David added the Church would accompany the witnesses once they are summoned for hearings.

The bishop, an outspoken critic of the administration's war on drugs, said the government should treat them as allies not enemies.

“But if their agenda is not justice, then indeed they might have a basis for treating us as their enemies. We are motivated only by faith, never by politics,” he said.

David will be the vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines starting December 1. 

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PMAyers’ links to drug shipment exposed in Senate

Ruben Taguba Jr. Allen Capuyan–PHOTOS BY GRIG C.MONTEGRANDE


The Senate inquiry into the P6.4-billion “shabu” (crystal meth) shipment from China has uncovered the participation of graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
The blue ribbon committee was able to tie up on Monday the background of some of the alleged key players in the shabu shipment and smuggling in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Sen. Richard Gordon, committee chair, pointed out that some of the key players were from the PMA. “It’s an old boys’ club,” he told reporters.

Gordon was referring to Teofilo Joseph Bacud, a certain Jack Cabalza, retired Col. Allen Capuyan, BOC Command Center chief Gerardo Gambala and former BOC Deputy Commissioner Milo Maestrecampo.
It was the father of customs fixer Mark Taguba II, who disclosed the identities of Cabalza and Bacud.

Bacud was the one who helped Taguba connect with contacts to help him facilitate the release of flagged shipments without BOC inspection.
Among these contacts were a certain Tita Nani and Jack, who Taguba said were part of the so-called “Davao Group,” which allegedly facilitated smuggling at the BOC for a fee.
Taguba’s father Ruben Jr., a former customs policeman, told Gordon that Bacud was a classmate of Jack whose full name was either Jack Baesa or Jack Cabalza.
“Colonel Capuyan knows (Bacud),” the older Taguba said, referring to retired Col. Allen Capuyan, assistant general manager at the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), who is also a PMA graduate.
Big Brother
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the full name of Jojo Bacud was Teofilo Joseph Bacud.
Taguba identified Capuyan as “Big Brother,” who belonged to another group from which he had sought help for the release of his shipment flagged by the BOC.
Gordon showed text messages between Taguba and Tita Nani in which Capuyan was mentioned four times.
Taguba said he had met with Capuyan once in a meeting attended by Tita Nani to seek help for his shipment.
He said he gave Capuyan a check for P1 million through
Tita Nani.
But Capuyan denied getting the check, although he confirmed meeting with Tita Nani and Taguba.
The MIAA assistant general manager said Taguba did not speak much at the meeting and that it was Tita Nani who told him about Taguba’s concerns.
Capuyan said he knew Bacud and last talked to him last week.
PMA underclass
“Jojo Bacud was an underclass and acquaintance way back at PMA being my battalion mate,” he said.
Capuyan said he met Bacud again when he was assigned at MIAA while the latter was conducting customs intelligence gathering.
He said Bacud introduced to him Tita Nani and a certain Noel as Bacud’s business partners in March.
Capuyan said his meeting for lunch with Tita Nani, Noel and Taguba was the first and last meeting he had with Taguba.
He said he submitted to the Department of Finance (DOF) a report on the shabu shipment, which he noted incriminated Taguba.
Capuyan said he knew President Duterte because he was assigned in Mindanao from 1997 to 2003 and in 2008.
The BOC Command Center chief, Gerardo Gambala, who is also a PMA graduate from Class 1995, said Bacud had a service contract with the BOC from January to June this year. He said Bacud was a former PMA cadet.

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After killings of teenagers, HRW urges UN inquiry into PH drug war

KILLED IN DRUG WAR. Protest placards, pictures and paintings from supporters fill the Delos Santos store shelves on August, 25, 2017, the eve of Kian's funeral. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler 

 

MANILA, Philippines – International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday, September 9 said the deaths of teenagers in the country in recent weeks highlighted the need for a United Nations (UN) inquiry into the Philippines' drug war.

The HRW in a statement said "circumstances suggest that the Philippine National Police deliberately targeted" at least two of the teens killed – Kian delos Santosand Reynaldo de Guzman.

 

"These killings demonstrate that Duterte's rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential 'drug-war' victims, no matter how young," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said in the statement.

According to Caloocan police, 17-year-old Delos Santos was killed in a drug raid in his neighborhood on August 16. Delos Santos allegedly shot at the cops, prompting them to retaliate.

But according to the Public Attorney's Office and the National Bureau of Investigation, the evidence showed that Delos Santos was murdered. (READ: Kian and Carl: What the deaths of two boys have in common)

De Guzman, 14, was last seen with another slain teenager, Carl Arnaiz. The two went missing on the evening of August 17.

Arnaiz allegedly robbed a taxi driver along C3 Road in Navotas early on August 18, then was killed in a supposed shootout with Caloocan City police. The PAO forensic team, however, said that the crime scene where Arnaiz was killed was apparently "staged."

De Guzman's lifeless body was found floating in a creek in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday, September 5. He had 30 stab wounds, and his head was wrapped with packing tape.

The HRW noted that packing tape "has been a gruesome hallmark of many drug-war killings" under the current administration

"The killings of Delos Santos and De Guzman bring to at least 54 the number of children killed by police and 'unidentified gunmen' in the 'war on drugs' since July 2016, according to data from the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center," the HRW said.

'Concerted action by UN crucial'

The New York-based organization noted major concerns about the "willingness and capacity" of government authorities "to conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations" into killings related to the drug war.

"Concerted action by the UN Human Rights Council to address Duterte's abusive drug war is crucial. The council should press the Philippines government to accept an independent international investigation into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to hold those responsible to account," the HRW said.

It also urged the UN Human Rights Council to press the government to cooperate with Agnes Callamard, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, to grant her "unfettered and unconditional access," and to immediately stop "all official incitement and instigation of drug war killings."

"A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them," Kine said.

He added: "Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows a UN-led international probe, child-killers among the police will continue to get away with murder." – Rappler.com

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Philippine Muslims called to jihad vs extremists

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The war with Muslim extremists in the Philippines calls for a holy war, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman told Muslim religious leaders or ulama in a conference here this week.

"Kung handang magpakamatay sila sa maling paniniwala nila, bakit hindi tayo handang magpakamatay kung tama ang ating paniniwala. Kung mayroong dapat magjihad ngayon, dapat tayong lahat (If they are ready to die for their wrong belief, why are we not willing to die if our belief is the correct one? If there are people who should launch a jihad right now, it should be us)," he said.

 

Hataman spoke at the Ulama-LGU Executives Multi-Sectoral Groups Conference on the Marawi Crisis held on September 6 in Cagayan de Oro. 

The prolonged war with local terrorist groups – the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group – linked with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Marawi City is a wake-up call that prompted collective action from a region that has long suffered from violent extremism. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

The Bangsamoro mufti or top Muslim legal expert in the region issued a fatwa against radical extremism, an important ruling that sent a clear stand against the ISIS ideology that, the war shows, has radicalized many young Muslims in Central Mindanao.

The issuance of the fatwa on June 25 triggered commitments from dominant Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), local officials, and Muslim religious leaders who were previously accused of dangerous ambivalence about the Maute Group.

The MILF has offered to help the military stop armed groups from reinforcing the terrorists in the Marawi battle area, guarding the parts of its stronghold Maguindanao that are bordering Lanao del Sur.

Lanao mayors signed a manifesto declaring war against the Maute Group.

In a 3-day conference in Cagayan de Oro, the members of the Ulama League of the Philippines sat down to discuss their actions on the ground to "eradicate the misguided interpretation of Islam."

"We stand firmly with the idea that any form of terror including the action of ISIS and inspired radical Islamist groups based in Lanao del Sur often known as the Maute Group, Dawlah [Islamiyah], Abu Sayyaf are purely un-Islamic," said Alibasher Aldulatif, National Speaker of the Ulama League of the Philippines.

"No religion was never mentioned that allows bombing, kidnapping, assassination and extortion. The ulama must have a unanimous stand on this issue," he added.

Pass Bangsamoro Law

ULAMA CONFERENCE. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and high-ranking generals discuss Marawi rehabilitation with the Ulama League of the Philippines. Rappler
     

ULAMA CONFERENCE. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and high-ranking generals discuss Marawi rehabilitation with the Ulama League of the Philippines. Rappler 

Religious leaders and stakeholders agree that the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is crucial in addressing the problem of extremism in Mindanao. (READ: MILF, Maute Group battle for legitimacy)

The BBL seeks to create a new Bangsamoro region that will replace and will have wider powers than the current ARMM. This is opposed to the plans of the Maute Group to carve their own territory in Central Mindanao where ISIS will rule.

Hataman said the enacment of BBL alone will not stop violent extremism in Mindanao. But it's an important start.

"Alam ko hindi ito ang ultimong solution. Pero sisiguraduhin ko sa inyo, malaking bagay sa pagtapos sa problem natin sa extremista ang BBL (I know it is not the ultimate solution. But I'm assuring you, the BBL is crucial in ending the problem of extremism)," said Hataman.

"Kahit gaano katigas at kaastig ang Pangulo ng bansa, kahit gaano pa kalakas ang sandatahan ng bansa, hindi ho solusyon ang lakas at hindi po solusyon ang isang tao sa laki ng problema na hinaharap ng ating bansa. Dapat lahat tayo ang solusyon ng problemang ito," He added.

(No matter how strong the President of the country is, no matter how strong the military is, strength and one person alone are not enough to address the big problem the country is facing. We should all help in solving this problem.)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the passage of BBL was sidelined by the war, but he assured the religious leaders that President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to its passage.

The enacment of the BBL is one of the appeals of the Ulama League of the Philippines.

It also called for a congressional inquiry into the "realities of the Marawi siege that prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao," additional security forces in their areas, and the urgent rehabilitation of Marawi City. – Rappler.com

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Negros Occidental rejoins W. Visayas regional dev't council

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Negros Occidental rejoined the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas (Region 6) during its 3rd quarter meeting in Kalibo, Aklan, on Friday, September 8.

 

It was the first time the province joined the council meeting after the abolition of Negros Island Region (NIR) on August 9.

RDC-6 chairperson and Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao said during the meeting that a series of consultation meetings were held in the past weeks to fasttrack the integration of Negros Occidental to Western Visayas. 

She also said that RDC-6 will conduct a dialogue with the local officials and the private sector in Bacolod on September 15.

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia will present their respective development agenda and proposed projects during the meeting next week. (READ: Contractuals will be worst hit by dissolution of Negros Island Region)

The regional directors of line agencies are also expected to provide immediate response and feedback on projects that can be pursued and programmed in the next 5 years. 

Cadiao said she will preside the dialogue "to show to the local officials of Negros Occidental that we in the RDC-6 are committed to provide them full support in the pursuit of their development agenda and in pushing for their major development projects."

Negros Occidental Provincial Planning and Development Officer Maria Lina Sanogal, who represented Marañon in the meeting, said the RDC-6 chairperson expressed her full support for the Negros Occidental Development Agenda and committed to push for major development projects in the province.

The dissolution of Negros Island reverted Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental to Western Visayas and Central Visayas, respectively.

Meanwhile, Cadiao said RDC-6 will play a significant role in integrating and directing the cohesive growth in the Visayas area.

“We will be looking into infrastructure and economic plans, among others, that can be undertaken jointly or separately yet with a unified goal, answering the challenges faced by our country, amidst the opportunities presented by the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) integration,” the governor said.

Cadiao stressed that the feasibility study on the proposed inter-island link bridges in the Visayas, power connectivity, and plans for increasing air and sea transport connectivity within the Visayas region and with other parts of the country are “our priorities.”

“These will be undertaken on top of our development programs, projects, and activities for Western Visayas,” Cadiao said as she asked for support and cooperation from the body.

Private sector representatives in Negros Occidental and Iloilo also took their oath as members of RDC-6 during the Friday meeting. – Rappler.com

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Negros Catholic leaders hit double standard in drug war

CRIME SCENE. Neighbors of teenager Kian delos Santos put candles and flowers in the spot where he was killed by the Caloocan City police. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler 

 

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The 4 dioceses in Negros Island again condemned the spate of killings in the country due to the Duterte administration's war on drugs.

Bishop Patricio Buzon of Bacolod, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, and Diocesan Administrator Rolando Nueva of Kabankalan issued this message in a joint statement Friday, September 8.

 

In their statement, the Catholic leaders criticized a double standard in the drug war.

"Due process is strongly demanded in cases where rich and influential people are involved like children of top government officials, while the poor who are merely suspected of the crime are summarily executed. We believe that this drug war as presently waged is based on a shortsighted and superficial understanding of the problem which needs a more comprehensive and integrated approach," they said.

The Catholic leaders said they sensed "the grief, the anguish, the fear, the confusion, even the outrage, and the many troubling questions of family members, colleagues, classmates, friends, and communities of those who were killed without due process, either as part of our government's war on drugs or counter-insurgency measures or as plain civilian banditry."

At the same time, they acknowledged the enormity of the drug problem, as well as the peace and order situation.

"They reveal to us not only the political and criminal issues involved. They also and more importantly mirror to us the deeper social ills plaguing for so long our country – much more our island of Negros! These social problems are deeply felt in areas where there is defective governance and great socio-economic-political-cultural and ecological imbalances," they said.

'Climate of fear'

Moreover, the church leaders challenged themselves and their dioceses to pray that the country may end the drug menace, but in a way that is just and lawful; to intensify evangelization particularly in forming consciences and promoting life, starting with families; and to work with government, civil society, and other churches in drug prevention and rehabilitation.

In 2016, they also issued a joint statement condemning the anti-drug campaign of the administration.

In their new statement, they said they reaffirmed their statement last year, condemning the increasing number of killings. They also reiterated the sanctity of human life.

"This statement has become even more necessary because of the unabated and appallingly increasing incidents of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) as part of 'One Time, Big Time' campaign, riding-in-tandem shooting, or anti-insurgency operations, as well as the ambushes perpetrated by the underground revolutionary forces. We are greatly alarmed, for example, by the spate of killings committed even in broad daylight that is still going on in the city of Guihulngan and the resulting climate of fear, demoralization, and unpeace," the church leaders said. 

In the Philippine capital, also on Friday, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle issued his strongest written statement against the drug war killings.

"We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal. We cannot govern the nation by killing. We cannot foster a humane and decent Filipino culture by killing," the Manila archbishop said. – Rappler.com

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LP to Duterte: Let CHR probe killings

DRUG WAR PROBE. Commission on Human Rights chaired Chito Gascon(left), has been asking the Philippine National Police headed by Director General Ronald dela Rosa to share its case folders on the drug war killings, but President Rodrigo Duterte won't allow it. 

 

MANILA, Philippines – If President Rodrigo Duterte is really "serious" in solving cases of drug war killings, he should let an independent body such as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) do the investigation, the Liberal Party (LP) said on Saturday, September 9.

The LP said in a statement that this would yield more productive results than Duterte's order for Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to look into groups allegedly "sabotaging" his government's war on drugs.

 

“On the killings, if the government is serious about solving them, it should allow an independent, impartial body – the Commission on Human Rights is constitutionally mandated – to conduct the investigation of these killings so as to be more credible to the public,” the LP said.

The former ruling party made the call a day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his top cop to probe a supposed plot to weaken his government’s war on drugs, based on the gruesome killing of 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman.

Duterte had also thumbed down the request of the CHR to have access to PNP case files on killings in the drug war. The CHR had reiterated its request to the PNP following the deaths of teenagers Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz, who both died in the hands of Caloocan City police.

'Preposterous' sabotage plot

On the alleged plot to sabotage Duterte's war on drugs, the LP said, “The government should face the problem of drug-linked killings head-on, instead of trying to look for purported saboteurs and destabilizers when things have become too messy and bloody."

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin dismissed Duterte's sabotage angle as "preposterous and absurd," and joined calls for an independent investigation of the drug war killings.

"President Duterte has almost absolute control over government from the legislative to executive branches including the security sector. He has tons of intelligence fund at his disposal to go after the perpetrators of EJKs," Villarin said.

"It’s the height of irony to blame others while his PNP under General Dela Rosa has done nothing to curb the EJKs nor has the DOJ prosecuted people responsible for thousands of murders," he added.

For Malacañang, there is nothing surprising at all with the President's theory, given the “powerful narco-politicians and deep-pocketed drug lords” who were “adversely” affected by the drug war.

“It should not come as a surprise that these malignant elements would conspire to sabotage the President's campaign to rid the Philippines of illegal drugs and criminality, the centerpiece program of the administration, to succeed, which may include creating scenarios stoking public anger against the government,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“The recent killings apparently targeting the youth should be viewed with suspicion and urgency,” he added.

Nothing new

Detained Senator Leila de Lima, an LP member, said Duterte's attempt to "re-angle" the killings of the teenagers as a ploy of his detractors was his way of deflecting criticism.

"Duterte did not expect the public relations backlash that the killings of the teenagers has produced. It is not as if these are new. Since day one of his drug war children and teenagers already started to fall like flies," De Lima said in a separate statement.

De Lima noted that the Davao Death Squad, which Duterte allegedly used for extrajudicial killings of crime suspects and his political enemies when he was Davao City mayor, "was famous for the killing of children and minors aged 12 to 18."

"Because they could not send them to jail under the Pangilinan Law, which Duterte occasionally criticizes, they just killed them right after letting them go. Most of them were knifed to death instead of being shot to make it appear that they were killed in gang wars," said De Lima, who tried to probe the DDS when she was CHR chief.(READ: The day Duterte faced the Commission on Human Rights)

The senator – Duterte's fierce critic – also took a swipe at the President's pronouncement that so he could not have sanctioned the teenagers' killing as one of the victims, Arnaiz, is his "relative."

"Mr President, the fact that Carl Angelo is your relative, even if it is true, and I doubt it, does not mean you didn't order his murder. It only means you really don't care who is killed in your drug war. There is no way you can spin that to bring 13,000 people – children, teenagers, and all – killed in your drug war back to life," De Lima said.

Public outrage over the drug war were sparked by the killing of Delos Santos, Arnaiz, and De Guzman – just weeks apart, and under suspicious circumstances. Delos Santos was killed in a Caloocan police operation on August 16, Arnaiz in another Caloocan police operation on August 18, and De Guzman on September 5.

The deaths of the 3 teenagers prompted Duterte to temper his messaging on his anti-drug campaign. He said he will not condone the killing of young Filipinos. – Rappler.com

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14-year-old boy last seen with Carl Arnaiz found dead in Nueva Ecija with 30 stab wounds

File photo of the missing 14-year-old Grade 5 student Reynaldo de Guzman


(UPDATE 4 – 4:04 p.m.) GAPAN CITY, Philippines – Reynaldo de Guzman, the 14-year-old boy last seen with 19-year-old former University of the Philippines student Carl Angelo Arnaiz, was found dead by his father at a funeral parlor in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija.

Authorities were at first stumped as to the identity of the boy, estimated to be between 12 and 14 years old, whose body was found Tuesday morning in Kabayo Creek, Purok Gitna in Barangay San Roque in this city in Nueva Ecija.

His entire face was covered with masking tape when residents first noticed his body floating in the creek.

There was no identification on him, except for the word “Batman” on his red orange shorts.

His body bore stab wounds – at least 30 in all, according to initial examination done on the body.

Radio reports said earlier the child’s father, Ed de Guzman, was able to positively identify De Guzman through a mark on his leg and a wart on his knee.

His parents reportedly were able to find out where he was based on a tip from a social media friend, who had a picture of a child believed to be De Guzman.

De Guzman, a Grade 5 pupil at the Maybunga Elementary School in Pasig City, was eating in their house in Brgy. San Andres, Cainta, Rizal around 10 p.m. of August 16 when he suddenly disappeared after running and saying that he would get his clothes and slippers, according to his mother Lina Gabriel.

Gabriel said she was told by the friends of her son that they saw De Guzman go out with Arnaiz around 1 a.m. of August 17 to buy food.

Arnaiz also died in an alleged August 18 shootout with Caloocan police after he supposedly robbed at gunpoint 54-year-old taxi driver Tomas Bagcal. His remains were found by his parents on August 28 at a morgue in the city.

Arnaiz and De Guzman’s deaths happened after the killing of another teenager, Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos, during a police anti-drug operation in Caloocan City last August 16.

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Justice grinds slow as war vs illegal drugs rages

OVERCROWDED Inmates awaiting the outcome of illegal drug charges filed against them are detained in the overcrowded Quezon City jail in this photo taken on July 27,
2017. —AFP

Accused murderer Manuel Cerna has languished in a Philippine jail for 15 years without a verdict, one of countless inmates enduring interminable trials that are expected to get longer as an unrelenting drug war overwhelms the courts.
A notoriously slow and underresourced judicial system has seen a “tidal wave” of new cases as police have conducted a nationwide crime crackdown in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to eradicate all illegal drugs from society.
The case of Cerna, 60, who almost died of tuberculosis in one of the nation’s most overcrowded jails as his hearings dragged on, is not unusual in that his time in jail while on trial is close to reaching the minimum sentence.

“I get depressed. Some others here committed suicide because their wives left them. They lost all hope of freedom,” Cerna told the French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), in the Manila jail surrounded by rusting barbed wire and the stench of rotting food.
Flawed system
So-called “decader” inmates because they have spent 10 years or more behind bars while on trial are a symptom of a deeply flawed justice system that helped fuel Mr. Duterte’s rise to the presidency last year.
Mr. Duterte won the presidential election on a brutal law-and-order platform, promising swift justice chiefly by killing tens of thousands of criminals and a no-mercy stance on convicted criminals who he said could not be rehabilitated.
Mr. Duterte’s police have indeed shot dead thousands of people as they have scoured slums hunting drug traffickers and addicts, leading rights groups to express alarm at what they say is a wave of extrajudicial killings.
This has undoubtedly avoided many trials.
Additional pressure
But another 96,700 people have also been arrested as part of the drug war since Mr. Duterte came to power, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, adding to pressure on jails that were already nearly six times more crowded than they were built for.
Defendants often have to wait months between hearings, only for the session to be delayed because a judge is sick, a prosecutor fails to show up or a lawyer has another engagement.
Sometimes the case gets reassigned to a new judge and the whole process starts from scratch.

In other cases, public attorneys assigned to defend poor suspects change jobs without handing over crucial documents to their replacement, or worse, files get lost, and again the defendant is back to square one.
‘Vicious cycle’
“There is a tidal wave flooding the judiciary. (But) there is no attendant increase in the number of courts, judges, prosecutors and public attorneys,” Raymund Narag, assistant professor at Southern Illinois University in the United States, told AFP.
“Extrajudicial killings are justified for Filipinos because of the failure of the criminal justice system. It becomes a vicious cycle,” Narag added.
Trials nationwide last an average of six to 10 years, according to a prominent human rights lawyer, Jose Manuel Diokno.
A Supreme Court task force on prison decongestion last year also said “an innocent man is jailed for at least five years before he is eventually acquitted.” One of the key problems is simply a lack of courts, prosecutors and judges.
There are just 2,600 criminal, civilian and other types of courts for a population of 100 million, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez told AFP.
Thirty percent of those courts have no judges, according to Marquez’s office.
This leaves the others with impossible tasks, with judges having to handle up to 5,000 cases at any one time, Marquez said.
The Supreme Court has in recent years sought to do what it can, such as by introducing computerized records and setting up a system to lock in a firm timetable for hearings. Otherwise many months pass without hearings taking place.
‘Band-aid’ solutions
“[But] these initiatives are band-aid solutions. What we need are institutional solutions like adding courts and funding them, which require the support of Congress and the executive [branch],” Marquez said.
The government is fast-tracking the hiring of hundreds of prosecutors and improving staff training, Justice Undersecretary Antonio Kho told AFP.
Mr. Duterte has also promised to pour extra funds into the penal system next year.
But he has also repeatedly made comments that have raised questions about his administration’s intent on improving the nation’s jails and prisons.
Packed jails
“I prefer that they (inmates) sleep standing,” Mr. Duterte said in March when discussing the problem of packed jails.
In a lengthy assessment of the justice system, Mr. Duterte, 72, last month also claimed many prisoners wanted to stay behind bars because they became homosexuals while serving time and enjoyed regular meals.
“They don’t want to go out. Because the food is free and their lover, they are in love, they want to stay there,” Mr. Duterte said, as he insisted people could not be rehabilitated in the country’s jails.
“They are already monsters,” he added.
But Cerna, the alleged murderer, insists he is innocent and mourns the wasted years trapped behind bars away from his family.
“When my mother died, I wanted to break down. I wanted to shout but all I could do was cry,” Cerna, whose real name cannot be disclosed while his case is pending, recalled how he was desperate to help her.
“I wasn’t able to serve her in her dying years,” he added.

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Bato breaks down anew: God knows cops not killing innocent people

PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net


Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa broke down anew during Tuesday’s Senate hearing, asserting that there was never a policy in the PNP to kill, even innocent individuals.
“Magpakatamay kami para sa inosenteng tao. Mahirap naman sabihin natin na may policy na malawakang pagpatay. Andyan si Lord, nakikita niya. Alam niya. I’m willing to go back to Davao ‘pag na-prove niyo,” Dela Rosa said while in tears.
(We are willing to die for the innocent. It is not correct to say that there is a policy for widespread killing. God is there, He sees. He knows. I am willing to be reassigned to Davao again if proven otherwise.)

This was not the first time Dela Rosa turned emotional during a public hearing.
This time, Dela Rosa cried while defending the police force after Senator Risa Hontiveros quizzed him about the continuous rise of killings amid the government’s drug war.
The Senate public order committee, chaired by former PNP chief Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, resumed on Tuesday its investigation on the death of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in a police operation last Aug. 16.
Addressing Hontiveros, Dela Rosa said: “Walang sinabi si Presidente sa akin na pumatay kami nang pumatay. One-hundred seventy-five thousand policemen, paano ko dedepensahan ang organization ko na sarado na isip n’yo na may policy kami na ganyan?”
(The President did not instruct us to kill and kill. One-hundred seventy-five thousand policemen, how can we defend our organization if your minds are made up that we have that policy?)
READ: Bato: Kian’s death will not stop war on drugs
The police chief added that he is one with the senators, as well as the families of the victims, in their quest for justice.

But he said the lawmakers should also be one with the PNP in seeking justice for its men who are laying their lives for the drug war.
“Sana hustisya rin ng karamihan na pulis na nagtatrabahao. I’m grieving for majority of my men. ‘Yung buhay nila nakataya, tapos i-accuse niyo kami na may policy na ganon? Masakit.”
(We also want justice for the police who are doing their jobs. I’m grieving for majority of my men. They are putting their lives on the line and yet you accuse us that we have that policy? That hurts.)
“You know me personally, hindi ako papayag na gagamitin ang pulis na masama,” he said.
Hontiveros calls Dela Rosa her “old friend” as her late husband and former police official Francisco Baraquel is Dela Rosa’s classmate at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). They graduated from the military academy in 1986.
The lady senator then explained to Dela Rosa that she believes in the PNP’s defense, stressing that in her public statements, she’s seeking accountability from President Duterte who ordered the police to kill suspected drug addicts and pushers. IDL

 

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