At 79, I must still confront political persecution

Today I turned 79 years old.

Nothing remarkable about that, except that at my age I’m still being subjected to public political persecution by the state authorities. And this has been my situation, on and off, off and on, for the past 42 years. Yes, for more than half of my life.

Four years ago I already wrote about this. However, I’m taking up the matter again to call attention to what the Duterte government is doing: sustaining the political persecution – affecting not only myself but more than 600 other persons – with a crude but vicious twist. I refer to the Department of Justice “terror list” and the threat it imposes on the safety and security of those whose names are in it, or may be added to it.

The list is contained in a petition for proscription, filed by the Department of Justice at the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 in Manila on February 23, asking the court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. My name is among the alleged “known officers” of the two revolutionary organizations with known addresses, through whom “respondents CPP and NPA… may be served with summons and other processes” of the court. But the summons that the court sheriff handed to me was for me to answer the allegations in the DoJ petition within 15 days.

In compliance with the summons, I have filed a motion to dismiss the DoJ petition, through my lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center. The motion challenges the court’s jurisdiction over my person, not being a respondent; denounces the inclusion of my name in the list; categorically denies my prior knowledge and participation in the alleged acts of terror attributed to the two revolutionary organizations; and questions the validity of the grounds cited in the petition for declaring the CPP and NPA as terrorists.

When my motion to dismiss was heard on March 23 as scheduled, no DoJ representative or state prosecutor appeared before the court. Thus the judge issued an order for the DoJ petitioner to reply, within 15 days, to my motion to dismiss. Let’s watch what will happen next; my lawyers and I are determined to convince the court to throw out this case.

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. Former Senator Rene Saguisag shares a light moment with Makabayan President Satur Ocampo and NDFP consultants Wilma Tiamzon, Benito Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad during a short break at the Manila RTC Branch 32 hearing on Aug. 10. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/Bulatlat)

The common denominator I find among the four administrations accountable for my political persecution is the tyrannical mindset common to three of them (the Marcos, Arroyo and Duterte regimes) and the overarching influence of the military establishment (most notably during the Cory Aquino administration). But what has abetted and exacerbated the persecution has been the very slow process of the judicial system.

Let me briefly review what I went through under these administrations.

I have been arrested and detained four times: under the Marcos dictatorship – for nine years and three months (severely tortured, held in isolation twice for a total of 14 months); under Aquino – for three years and one month; and under Arroyo – detained twice, for relatively short periods.

I have gone through the judicial process, answering the charges filed against me:

Under the Marcos dictatorship, I was tried by “special military commissions” on two political charges: 1) rebellion – the trial dragged on for eight years but the military prosecutors failed to prove their case, until Marcos was overthrown; 2) subversion – the trial failed to take off for lack of witnesses.

Under the Cory Aquino administration, my wife Bobbie Malay and I were charged with three common-crime capital offenses: murder, kidnapping with serious illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms (two counts). After three years of bail hearings, in four different courts, we were cleared.

(At the time, human rights lawyers depicted those accusations as “criminalization of a political offense,” referring to rebellion. Today they are described as trumped-up common-crime charges to circumvent a 62-year-old jurisprudence repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court – the Amado V. Hernandez doctrine or political offense doctrine.)

Under the Arroyo regime, I was among the “Batasan 6” (progressive partylist colleagues in the House of Representatives) who were charged with rebellion in 2006. We challenged the charge as spurious before the Supreme Court. Two separate charges of murder in Nueva Ecija courts were also filed against me and four others in 2007.

In July 2007 the SC quashed the rebellion charge, finding it to have been so palpably trumped up such that the high tribunal admonished the justice secretary and state prosecutors for allowing themselves to be used for political objectives. The Nueva Ecija courts also threw out the two murder cases.

But still the Arroyo regime persisted. Before the SC quashed the rebellion case, state prosecutors filed another charge of “multiple murder” against me and 53 others in the Hilongos, Leyte court. Again I sought relief from the SC, where the police arrested me after I filed a petition urging dismissal of the charge. During the oral arguments before the SC en banc, my lawyers argued the charge should either be dismissed or absorbed by the rebellion case, in accordance with the Hernandez doctrine. Some of the magistrates advised the solicitor general to consider taking the latter step.

The high court then granted me bail, indicating the prosecutors had a weak case, and announced that a ruling on my petition would shortly be issued. Alas, no ruling came out for the next seven years, and the SC quashing of the rebellion case rendered moot the absorption of the murder charge. When the SC, with new members, acted on my 2007 petition in 2014, it ruled that – there being no more rebellion charge pending against me – I should undergo trial in the multiple murder case. The trial began thereafter, and I have been diligently attending hearings over the last four years.

Had the multiple murder charge been absorbed by the “Batasan 6” rebellion case before the SC quashed it, the case would have been closed. And the Hernandez doctrine could have been upheld once more in my favor. The last time it was upheld was in 1999, when the SC dismissed the “rebellion complexed with murder…” charge against Juan Ponce Enrile, in connection with his alleged involvement (when he was defense secretary) in the series of coup attempts against the Cory Aquino government.

If there’s any consolation in this protracted resistance to injustice, it’s that I am just one among the many Filipinos who continue to believe in upholding the freedoms and rights we have won.

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Published in Philippine Star
April 7, 2018

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