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Credibility at stake

I begin this column with heartfelt thanks to my colleague in the opinion pages, former Manila Standard editor-in-chief and former Philippine Ambassador to Hungary and Poland Andy del Rosario. He gave space in his column for my memoirs called “The Road Never Ends.”

I chose that title because it seems to me, now that I am 90 years old, that as a journalist my fight for change in our country has not amounted to anything. We don’t seem to be anywhere better.

I took over a year to finish my memoirs. Now the book is ready for printing by my good friend, Dante Arevalo Ang, chairman emeritus of the Manila Times.

Ang has generously offered to publish and market my book after I told him I didn’t have the money to do it on my own.

I was also hesitant because I knew I was not a celebrity even though I have walked the corridors of power, having covered 10 presidencies. It was a family decision that convinced me I should do it.

Dante sent one his staff members to interview me for weeks on end. The writer showed such patience as I had to recall many things. I thank my loving wife and my children Vic, Nina, Eric and Nicky.

Target launch date is April or May.

* * *

History tells us that for a government to survive, the people must trust it and its leaders completely. They must have credibility in their policies and how they implement these. Foremost among these is justice for all.

But state prosecutors cleared Kerwin Espinosa who had confessed in a Senate hearing that he was indeed a drug lord. Peter Lim, a “kumpare” of the President, has also been cleared when Espinosa said he was his supplier of illegal drugs, and others led by one Peter Co.

All these put at risk the credibility of the President, of his war on drugs, and of the justice system in the Philippines.

It’s unlikely that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre was not aware of the action taken by his prosecutors.

Now Aguirre claims he has created another panel of prosecutors to review the cases of those drug lords.

When there is no justice, the recourse of the people is revolution. This is why President Duterte should take charge of the prosecution of those drug lords. He can still set things right even if Aguirre cannot. He should prove he will not tolerate injustice. In fact, I think he should fire Aguirre.

This also has implications on other cases, like that of Senator Leila de Lima. Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, de Lima’s lawyer, claims that the DoJ applied the basic rules to confessed drug lords and waived all legal doctrines with respect to someone who has been politically prosecuted. We cannot help comparing De Lima’s case to those of the confessed drug lords.

I have no love lost for De Lima. She herself has a track record for persecuting the political enemies of former President BS Aquino III. I believe she had her comeuppance when she was jailed.

But why has President Duterte risked the loss of people’s trust?

* * *

Santa Banana, now the truth about the controversy on the Sanofi Pasteur vaccination program is coming out.

It was flawed, according to a US-based expert on dengue research, who said he was “astonished and upset” over the mass vaccinations by the Department of Health, then led by Secretary Janette Garin.

Dr. Scott Halstead, at the Senate hearing, recommended that blood tests be done before the vaccination program is implemented. This is to exclude “senogatives” or those who have not been infected with dengue before.

Halstead told the Senate Sanofi turned him down even after he explained his concern. Sanofi said doing this was not possible.

Halstead said he nearly fell off his chair when the French pharmaceutical firm told him the vaccine would only be given to those nine years and older. He said this did not make sense. What was more crucial, he thought, was the patient’s history of dengue.

This points to the responsibility and accountability of BS Aquino who negotiated the P3.5 billion deal. Along with him are Garin and former Budget secretary Florencio Butch Abad. He took from government savings to fund this project.

Their worst crime was to put at risk hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren.

* * *

There is one portion of the nine-page treatise of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile which I believe is pertinent in impeachment proceedings in a Senate trial.

According to Enrile, Charles L. Black Jr. said impeachment is neither a criminal nor a judicial matter. But Black seems to believe that in the Senate trial, the senators, as triers of fact, ought to pay attention to the demeanor, credibility and truthfulness of witnesses presented before them, and weigh the evidence presented for and against the impeached official fairly and impartially “without the dangers of partisanship or feelings of distaste.”

JPE said that an impeachment case is sui generis. The purpose is to remove the impeached public official. This is why the technical rules of evidence do not apply, and the principle of double jeopardy has no bearing.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno must be warned that even if she is acquitted in a Senate trial, she can still be brought to court for the offenses she committee.

In other words, there is no way out—except resignation.

Topics: Andy del Rosario , Juan Ponce Enrile , Janette Garin , Kerwin Espinosa , Peter Lim , Senate , Florencio Butch Abad , Leila De Lima , Maria Lourdes Sereno

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