It’s definite, the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections scheduled next month have been postponed indefinitely. What is not yet resolved is whether the present SK members will remain until their successors have been elected. There are those who say that they should be holdover SK members until the next elections. But there are others who say there should be no holdovers. The positions should be vacant until the new SK members shall have been elected.
As I see it, the latter group is correct. All the incumbent members are already over-aged and therefore unqualified. Only 15- to 18-year-olds are qualified to be SK members. Assuming they were 15 years old when they were elected three years ago, they would now be 18 years old, the maximum age for SK membership. So how can they remain as SK members when they are already disqualified by reason of age? Even if there will be elections next month, they can no longer run.
The SK is a failed experiment. The SK was supposed to prepare the youth for leadership and governance when they reach maturity. The SK was to be a school to prepare them for more responsible duties in society later in life. Instead the SK has turned out to be a school for corruption.
So early in life, SK members learned how to buy votes and to employ other political tricks. Many of them became the beginnings or extensions of political dynasties, which are another bane in our society. A number of SK members are either children of politicians or their relatives. And to get them elected, these older politicians used political tricks that they themselves used successfully. SK members learned all the wrong things from their elders.
Worse, these young SK members were introduced to corruption. Because the SKs are given funds and the SK chairpersons are given salaries, money influenced them the wrong way. As the saying goes, money is the root of all evil, and it is in the case of SK members. In the words of the late Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson: “So young, so corrupt,” an epithet he used to describe a young member of the city council.
If allowed to continue, these young people would be the next generation of congressmen and senators who would suck the blood of our taxpayers through the pork barrel system.
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An indication of the very, very slow wheels of justice in our country: Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales estimated that it would take her office one year or less to find probable cause in the plunder and malversation cases filed by the Department of Justice against Janet Lim-Napoles (alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam), three senators, two congressmen and 32 others. This is only the preliminary investigation before the cases are filed with the Sandiganbayan for trial. A University of the Philippines law professor estimated the trial to take about 10 years. By that time, one of the defendants may already be dead of old age.
If you are guilty as charged, what should be your defense? Any lawyer will advise you: Use dilatory tactics. The Constitution mandates a quick trial so that the innocent can be acquitted as soon as possible, and that is what those who are falsely charged want. The guilty, however, delay the judicial process as long as possible.
During the delay, many things could happen: The public could forget; witnesses could die or forget what happened; witnesses—or some of them—could be bought or terrorized to recant their earlier testimonies; judges could be persuaded through many means, monetary or otherwise, to favor the accused; prosecutors could be bribed, or replaced with others friendlier to the defendants, the same thing with the justices in the appellate courts. Or the defendants could leave the country and stay abroad until things cool down at home. Or a more friendly administration comes into power after the term of the current administration expires.
That is what is happening in the case of the Maguindanao massacre. It has been many years since the case was filed, but it’s not even in the trial proper stage. The court is still hearing the bail petition of the accused. A smart lawyer, a not-so-smart prosecutor, and a lenient judge can really delay a case forever.
Already, the dilatory tactics of the Napoles defense in the serious illegal detention case has started. After having her scheduled arraignment postponed, her lawyer is again asking the court for another postponement. Not content with that, the lawyer has filed a petition for bail although the crime of serious illegal detention is nonbailable.
After this, there will be other tricks. After every ruling of the judge against the defendants, the defense will elevate the case to appellate courts all the way to the Supreme Court with petitions for certiorari. With each unfavorable ruling, there will be motions for reconsideration which will take the judge or appellate courts a long time to decide, after which there will be second motions for reconsideration, and after which there will be appeals to higher courts. When the case reaches the Supreme Court, it can sleep there for decades, and if the accused is out on bail, it is as good as if he/she were acquitted.
The Napoles et al. case seems to be open and shut. There are many first-hand witnesses, there is a ton of documentary evidence showing who received how much of the pork barrel funds. But of course the volume of documents and the number of defendants (38 as of last count), each of whose lawyers has the right to cross examine the prosecution witnesses and the documents, can make the trial excruciatingly slow. The courts and the prosecution panel should be wary of the dilatory tactics of the defense.