Calida’s selective eyes
The Inquirer came out with a story (“SolGen Calida moves to acquit Napoles in illegal detention of Luy,” Inquirer.net, 2/15/17) on a report from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Solicitor General Jose Calida was said to have submitted a manifestation batting for the acquittal of Janet Lim Napoles before the Court of Appeals where her conviction for the illegal detention of Benhur Luy is on appeal.
Calida urged Napoles’ acquittal after finding that the testimony of Luy was not believable per se and the greater weight of the evidence pointed to the fact that his stay in a retreat house in Makati City and then in Napoles’ house in Pasig City from December 2012 to March 2013 was “voluntary.” The trial court got it all wrong, Calida argued.
Sensing something was amiss, high officials in the Office of the Ombudsman, the Supreme Court, and not a few law professors and experts said Calida’s move was “dangerous,” “alarming” and “shocking.” Unfazed, Calida pontificated that as a public servant, he is duty-bound to make sure only the guilty suffer and the innocent are set free.
Sometime last year, we laid an appeal at the doorstep of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to take a second look at the case of an innocent man, Christopher Soliva (now languishing in the New Bilibid Prison for crimes he never committed), and to take a stand consistent with its officials’ oath to do justice for all.
Due to space constraints, let me encapsulate the case in its basic and incontrovertible facts. Being Soliva’s counsel during the trial, I know whereof I speak.
Soliva was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder on the lone testimony of one witness who—upon being queried by policemen moments after the attack if he recognized any of those who attacked him and his friends—categorically said no because “they were wearing masks,” period. Then in court months later and after “consulting” with lawyers, he testified that he did recognize Soliva as one of their attackers who caused the death of one of his friends because… well, “his mask fell off”! No other prosecution witness saw Soliva anywhere at the scene of the crime despite pointing to the presence of the other accused at one point or another.
Well, just tough luck for Soliva. The case against him was not as high-profile as that against Napoles, a cause célèbre involving plunder of the people’s money in the billions of pesos.
While digging very deeply in the dirt to look for grounds on which it could base its stand to have the alleged “pork barrel” scam queen exonerated, the OSG gave our appeal for Soliva’s life no more than short shrift.
STEPHEN L. MONSANTO, Monsanto Law Office, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, firstname.lastname@example.org