Benjie Oliveros | A Double Standard in the Administration of Justice


Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and his colleagues who participated in the Oakwood mutiny and who later stood their ground amid offers of the previous administration to sacrifice their principles in exchange for their freedom would finally be released, most probably before Christmas. Rightfully so, because their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to continue receiving orders from an upstart dictator who kept herself in power through bribes and repression. Although there may be questions regarding the manner of their release because by receiving amnesty one is presumed guilty, it would result in their freedom nevertheless.

The process of their release was fast-tracked by the order of Pres. Benigno Aquino III to grant the mutineers amnesty even before the court has completed its hearings on the case filed against them. And the grant of amnesty had to be approved by Congress before being effective. It was supposed to be a three-step process – the court has to decide on the case; the president then orders the grant of amnesty; and Congress has to approve it – but was fast-tracked by a show of political will of the Aquino administration.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said with regards the case of the Morong 43. Twice, President Aquino rejected the calls of groups, locally and internationally, for the release of the Morong 43. During the first instance, his reply was to let the court decide but he admitted that there were a lot of irregularities in the search and arrest warrant so he ordered the Department of Justice to review the case. However, when Justice Sec. Leila de Lima submitted her recommendations, it was reviewed again by the Malacañang legal staff. After the review of the review was submitted, President Aquino would say the same thing again: let the court decide.

Why would there be a different standard of justice for the Oakwood mutineers and the Morong 43? If the only “crime” of the Oakwood mutineers is to protest against an upstart dictator, the only “crime” of the Morong 43 is to ensure that health services reach the poor in remote areas and that they belong to progressive organizations, which has consistently protested against the same upstart dictator.

Jose V. Cabrera , a lawyer for 20 years and a member of the board of governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, made it perfectly clear how simple it is for President Aquino to effect the release of the Morong 43: by simply ordering the prosecutors from the Department of Justice to withdraw the case. After that, he said, the court would have no choice but to drop the case. It is just a two step process.

Actually, the case of the Oakwood mutineers is much more complicated. The amnesty order still had to pass through Congress. Furthermore, in the case of Sen. Trillanes and his co-accused, Pres. Aquino did not think twice about preempting the decision of the court.

Why is it then that with the case of the Morong 43, President Aquino suddenly found it appropriate to wait for the decision of the court?

Clearly, there is a double standard in the administration of justice in the case of the Oakwood mutineers and that of the Morong 43. In a democracy, “the law should apply equally to all” otherwise there would be political prejudice. In this case, it is clear where the balance of justice weighs heavier. And only a stonger act on the part of the people could pressure the Aquino government to correct the injustice being committed against the Morong 43. (

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