Futility of watching Padre Faura
When the beleaguered, because increasingly publicly disgraced, soon-to-be-former PNP chief appeared with Estelito Mendoza by his side, everyone knew the legal problems of Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde were so bad, he had to invoke the fearsome reputation of the legal profession’s Harry Houdini, a healthy reminder to all potential questioners that they’d have to tangle with Mendoza if they persisted in pursuing Albayalde. For what it was worth, it was a power play.
What followed was a remarkable Great Escape, all perfectly legal, of course. Albayalde went on “non-duty status,” which, according to Napolcom Resolution No. 2009-183, can be availed of by retiring PNP personnel, provided clearance from the immediate supervisor is obtained. It should be no more than three months from the date of compulsory or voluntary retirement, and requires reporting for duty to the office, while being relieved of all responsibilities.
The media obligingly trumpeted what could equally have been characterized as a duck-and-cover, as a resignation, then as a “stepping down,” only to subsequently call it what it was, which was going on leave. The immediate supervisor in question, who it seems was the President, received a favorable endorsement of Albayalde’s desire to go on leave from interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, who in turn obliged with a statement commending Albayalde’s “selfless act.” What it actually accomplished was two things: It left the PNP chief free to retire in good standing and with all his benefits intact, while no longer having to face the media. Out of sight, out of mind—this was the selflessness deserving a commendation.
Even as the dust settled around the soon-to-be-ex-PNP chief, veteran investigative journalist Marites Vitug yesterday tweeted a reminder, by way of an article she wrote in 2015, untangling the ties between another forthcoming government retiree, Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, and former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza. She did so as, once again, Marcos loyalists and supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo gathered in front of the Supreme Court, in expectation that after repeated postponements, the high court, in its capacity as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, would finally resolve the claim of Marcos that he’d been robbed of votes.
As I write this, whether the Supreme Court hands down a decision as the swan song of the Bersamin Court or not, is really beside the point. The repeated delays in handing down a decision and releasing the report on the investigation into three pilot areas have provoked all sorts of speculation, so that if a decision favorable to Marcos is handed down, it will be written off as the result of an unwholesome transaction, and if thrown out, it will be viewed as having been not on the merits of the case, but instead because the price was not, somehow, right.
There has been a third option bruited about, which goes to the heart of the point I’d like to make: that regardless of the actual findings (supposedly a failure to find evidence of Marcos being defrauded), they would be set aside and the results in question merely removed, altering the outcome of the election in favor of Marcos. Surely, reaching such conclusions would be a slander on the court, or at least on certain justices? Sooner or later, a discussion of this will lead to the old saying that truth isn’t a defense in a libel action. But then again, as Ferdinand Marcos once exclaimed after he successfully imposed martial law, “There is nothing as successful as success!”
That instead of expecting the Supreme Court to weigh in and resolve a contest, the public has to wait with bated breath to see if the expected — a corrupt bargain, as the Americans might call it — unexpectedly doesn’t happen, says it all. And it must lie foursquare at the feet not just of people like the (by today) former chief justice, but also of the long line of lawyers and jurists who have done to the law what the presidential spokesperson so joyously does to the facts: handling them with “creative imagination.”
The rule of law, in our tropical jurisdiction, is about creatively achieving outcomes regardless of precedents, or the spirit — when the letter can be redefined — of the law. With absolute certainty, mind you, that it is all perfectly legal and proper, because the courts have declared it to be so. It may be that one day, with or without a Marcos restoration, we will finally reach the conclusion that the one institution never reformed was the judiciary, which therefore made all other reforms exercises in futility.
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