Soliva: a ‘justice for all’ tale of a lowly Filipino
This refers to the letter titled “Doing the right thing: one for SC” (Opinion, 3/30/17), making reference to Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno lecturing everyone to “do the right thing” in the face of the Duterte administration’s penchant for “alternative facts” and “hyperboles” (News, 3/26/17)—meaning, half-truths and outright lies!
The writer called attention to the case of Christopher Soliva who was my UP Diliman dormmate at the time he was sentenced to life imprisonment, along with his “brods,” in connection with a fraternity rumble at the UP campus in 1994. Having gone over the Supreme Court decision with a fine-tooth comb myself, I can say for certain that there was only one witness who placed Soliva in that rumble. No one else among the more than a dozen prosecution witnesses saw Soliva anywhere there.
The lone witness, himself a complainant, told two policemen who picked him up and brought him to the UP Infirmary that he did not know who attacked him and his “brods.” He repeated that answer when asked by the physician who
attended to him.
Then days after consulting with their other frat “brods” who were lawyers, he executed an accusatory affidavit against Soliva and some others as among the attackers who inflicted their injuries, resulting in the death of one of them. Soliva’s name nowhere appeared in the other complainants’
Those are the basic, undisputed facts.
In People vs. Sanchez (1992), Justice Hilario Davide Jr. (who later became chief justice) wrote for the high court: “The spontaneous character of the (utterance made moments after a “startling occurrence”) is assumed to preclude the probability of premeditation or fabrication. Its utterance on the spur of the moment is regarded, with a great deal of reason, as a guarantee of its truth.” He cited time-honored doctrinal rulings to back that up.
In stark contrast, Justice Marvic Leonen wrote for the high court in People vs. Feliciano, et al. (2014): “The act of not disclosing the correct information to (the policemen) or to (the doctor) does not make (their) testimonies more credible than (those) of the victims. It should not be forgotten that the victims actually witnessed the entire incident, while (the policemen and the doctor) were merely relaying secondhand
Justice Leonen’s spin was mind-boggling. He opined that it was “probable” that the lone witness against Soliva knew him and some others but chose not to disclose their identities at that moment. But that witness said in no uncertain terms that he could not recognize any of them, period. Clear and categorical as it was, that utterance left no room whatsoever for any speculation. Alas, Chief Justice Sereno fully subscribed to that “alternative” narrative by concurring to deny Soliva the benefit of the doubt at the very least.
Doesn’t this man of no political and social consequence deserve even just a sliver of the full attention accused Sen. Leila De Lima has been getting from no less than the Supreme Court en banc over her alleged liability under, of all things, the “notarial law”? And this is justice for all?
MARIUS C. CANONOY,
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