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Editorial

All beside the point

/ 05:07 AM January 19, 2020

Lawyer Jude Sabio is batting away at public suspicion that money is behind his move to withdraw the communication he had filed in 2017 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing President Duterte of human rights crimes while he was the mayor of Davao City.

However, it’s his new-found friend Larry Gadon — the disreputable Marcos loyalist and political operator who’s under a three-month suspension from law practice by the Supreme Court for “abusive and intemperate language” (his suspension ends Jan. 25 yet) — who’s somehow doing the talking for him.

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Sabio’s turnaround was all because he “realized these were all political propaganda” and that “he was taken for granted” by former senator Antonio Trillanes and others in the political opposition, according to Gadon.

There was absolutely no money involved in Sabio’s about-face either from him or from anyone else, Gadon declared: “Wala, I will not allow it.”

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Gadon, of course, is about as credible as a gnat, so it’s useful to go back to Sabio’s own words. In his 28-page letter to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC formally withdrawing the complaint, Sabio ticked off a long list of grievances against Trillanes et al.

Money was at the top of them — specifically, that his professional billing of some P700,000 for representing self-confessed Davao hitmen Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas allegedly remained unpaid, despite Trillanes’ promises; and, further, that his monthly allowance of P100,000 provided by Trillanes’ office was first reduced to P50,000, then discontinued altogether when Trillanes’ term as senator ended in June 2019.

He complained of other things, too: That lawyering for the two Davao hitmen and taking on the ICC case “exposed me to public hate and threats in an adverse political climate, dislocated me from my place in Cagayan de Oro City and caused me to impose self-restrictions on my movements, making me a virtual prisoner.”

But about those tribulations, one may ask: Was Sabio that naive to think he would not face the full might of the Duterte administration’s wrath in filing the ICC case—essentially the same “Davao Death Squad” human rights case that earned for Sen. Leila de Lima President Duterte’s chilling vow that he would “destroy her in public,” leading to her imprisonment on dubious drug charges? What did he think he was getting into—a party?

The “pittance” (his word) he complains to have received from Trillanes, on the other hand, inevitably invites the suspicion that, Gadon’s disclaimer notwithstanding, Sabio’s volte-face now somehow represents a relief for his financial problems.

That, or perhaps he and/or his loved ones did come under severe threat? There is seemingly more to be read in Sabio’s anguished mention of his wife’s supposed ordeal from his involvement with the ICC case and Trillanes et al.: “It is too much already for me that my wife has to be affected personally… This adverse effect on my wife is utterly unacceptable to me and marks a point of no return.”

At any rate, whatever Sabio’s stated reasons, the OTP has clarified that withdrawing the complaint “would have no impact on the ongoing preliminary examination” being conducted on the charges against Mr. Duterte, since the OTP has “an obligation to register whatever it receives.” More to the point, Sabio’s communication is only one of several cases filed at the ICC against Mr. Duterte.

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Hence, the ICC’s investigation and fact-finding will continue, and in this, what will stand out is what even Sabio himself failed to say in his letter — that the charges against Mr. Duterte are false. Are the crimes attributed to him true or not?

That is the heart of the matter, and every single justification Sabio has cited for his sudden change of mind—a falling-out with Trillanes, money gripes, that he was “treated so badly” by the opposition — ends up judged at this point as mere extraneous stuff, chaff from grain, and all beside the point.

Indeed, in an ABS-CBN report, asked repeatedly about the truth of the allegations against Mr. Duterte, Sabio said he “cannot say what is true” or not, only that they — Trillanes and his cohorts — are supposedly “not interested in justice.” His BFF Gadon helpfully chimed in with: “The implication is they are not true because if it’s not already in the interest of justice then, they are not true.”

Somebody tell the suspended lawyer it doesn’t work that way. The true interest of justice demands that the grievous crimes of which a sitting President is accused be investigated thoroughly, the truth ferreted out though the heavens may fall. Against that primordial interest, everything else, including Sabio’s decamping to Gadon (of all people) and his patrons, is mere sound and fury, a momentary static, in the end signifying nothing.

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TAGS: crimes against humanity, editorial, Jude Sabio, Larry Gadon, Rodrigo Duterte
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