The truth and nothing but the truth

TAKE it from former Palace apparatchik by the name of Jesus Dureza when he said, “in our regime, the Supreme Court is supreme. If we do not accord it the respect and dignity as an institution, we might as well disband this so-called democracy that we joyfully pay lip service to.”

All the while I thought that there are three co-equal branches of government—the executive, legislative and the judiciary. That is supposed to be main structure of a democratic government. Now, it is literally the High Tribunal that is supposed to be supreme.

If I got it right, private citizen Dureza, an unrepentant apologist of the previous regime, wants President Aquino to kowtow to the whims of the Supreme Court, if not just to the Chief Justice, who was actually a long-time Palace functionary like Mr. Dureza before being appointed by then President Arroyo as Chief Magistrate.

In fact, when Mr. Dureza wrote this commentary he even cited the case when President Aquino “immediately went swinging in the media against the Supreme Court when it ruled against his Executive Order No. 2.”
Says Mr. Dureza: “I first gave him a bit of a leeway as he is a non-lawyer. But on second thought, I expected the country’s top leader to exercise more prudence and care that he does not also become a witting — or unwitting — party to undermining the fundamental institution of our democracy. And being a non-lawyer should not be an excuse. In fact, those who do not know the fine points of law must even be more extra cautious that they do not cross the line unnecessarily – and recklessly.”

But Mr. Dureza should also be reminded that respect can only be attained by a bureaucrat, and even if he is the chief justice of the Supreme Court, if he has shown that he  works for the interest of the people, and not only for his former bosses and political allies.
I have no question on the brilliance of the Chief Justice as well as that of Mr. Dureza, although both had loyally served their president despite her being most unpopular leader this country ever had.
So, perhaps, Mr. Dureza should also look at the reaction of another veteran bureaucrat, lawyer-writer Frankie Llaguno, when he reacted on the High Court’s decision to declare as   unconstitutional President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission.

Llaguno pointed out that 24 years earlier, in 1986, then President Corazon Aquino also launched via an executive order the country’s first truth commission.

Cory’s commission, called the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, was to investigate the human rights abuses of the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 to 1986.

According to Llaguno, the Cory commission was created along mainstream truth commission lines. Such commissions are generally understood to be bodies set up to investigate past history of violation of human rights in a particular country.

He said that President Benigno Aquino III’s Truth Commission “is unique in that it is tasked to probe, not human rights violations, but the alleged anomalies and irregularities during the Arroyo administration, including the fertilizer land scam; the bungled National Broadband Network project between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE corporation; and the “Hello, Garci” scandal.”

Llaguno said Malacañang may appeal the Supreme Court decision, or explore other options such as going through the Department of Justice, the Ombudsman, or going to Congress for a law crafted to overcome the equal protection hurdle.

“There are important public stakes here, including the opportunity for Noynoy’s truth commission to virtually write Philippine history between 2001 and 2009,” he says.

Experts say that despite the prevalence of the truth commission phenomenon worldwide, there is no clear understanding of their effectiveness.

But I would rather listen to the people who would participate in the truth commission rather than listen to the likes of Mr. Dureza who would always criticize whoever would question the previous regime’s record.

That would give both perpetrators and victims the opportunity to tell their stories. Perhaps those inputs can finally put an end to the vicious cycle of corruption in this country.

In the end, only the truth can set us free. Joel Paredes


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