A champion emerges

Every so often, a man or woman emerges practically from nowhere to become a champion for the people.

Such is the case with Judge Andres Soriano of the Makati City Regional Trial Court. Despite pressure from the very top, he dared defy the Duterte administration which had been counting on him to rule that the amnesty granted Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for leading a rebellion against the government was null and void.

The amnesty papers of Trillanes had been “lost” after the Solicitor General had reportedly traced their whereabouts and asked the Armed Forces to show him the original.

Soriano ruled that just because the papers could not be located was not proof that they did not exist.

In a perfect world, the ruling should have been obvious since so many witnesses had stepped forward to testify that Trillanes did in fact apply for amnesty and had admitted his guilt. Those were the two conditions that the Duterte administration had tried to prove were non-existent.

Print and broadcast media merely had to show their coverage of the time Trillanes filed for amnesty. It had been big news at the time so there was no shortage of media files.

Even the Armed Forces admitted that the senator had in fact filed for amnesty. Most importantly, no less than former President Noynoy Aquino publicly stated that he had signed the amnesty of the former Navy officer, who led a coup attempt against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Unfortunately, ours is a less-than-perfect world. As a leading light of the political opposition, Trillanes had gotten Rodrigo Duterte’s goat on multiple occasions. Among others, the senator had accused the president of having hundreds of millions of pesos in his bank account and that one of the president’s sons was involved in the billion peso drug trade.

Mr. Duterte wanted Trillanes jailed at all cost, and he had his lackeys throw everything at Trillanes. It was both a sad and frightening spectacle to witness a government single out one person for persecution.

Most everyone agreed that Trillanes had complied with the requirements. Like him or not, he has a multitude of true believers. In fact, he was elected to the Senate twice. But this did not matter to the Duterte administration.

Luckily, Judge Soriano opted to stand tall instead of kowtowing to the regime.  At the start of the week, he released his order declaring that the Justice department had failed to prove its case. As such, Trillanes remains a free man.

Unlike another oppositionist, Senator Leila de Lima, he will not be incarcerated for no other reason than the pure hatred the president has for him.

Unfortunately, Trillanes  has hit his term limit as senator. He could have easily run for another position, but opted not to. But don’t count him out just yet. He will still be around in some capacity or another, and will continue to be a thorn on the side of Mr. Duterte for the remainder of the president’s term.

Judge Soriano, meanwhile, has become a hero in the eyes of those who oppose the administration, which treats anyone who disagrees with its policies as enemies of the state.

There may be consequences for the good judge’s brave act, however. He can now consider himself an enemy of the administration, which can then take such steps as blocking his possible promotion to the Court of Appeals or creating reasons to suspend him on some trumped up charge as a form of punishment.

Whatever happens next, Judge Soriano as well as his family and friends can be proud of the fact that he did the right thing by issuing a decision based on facts.

Incidentally, the judge is a namesake of the late Don Andres Soriano, who led San Miguel Corporation in its glory days when the local brewery became known for producing a world class beer which won numerous awards and accolades.

That Andres Soriano eventually sold his shares to Danding Cojuangco, who then led the company’s diversification to other related industries. As such, SMC remains one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.

As for Judge Andres Soriano, he gives us reason to believe that the situation is not hopeless, that there are still good men and women who serve in the judicial branch of government. We need more of his kind.

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