Today’s ‘Viewpoint’ would have focused on the no-nonsense demographer Mercedes Concepcion. At the Philippine Population Conference, she and her colleagues, blistered Maguindanao’s “statistically impossible” 5.4 percent bolt in population. Most “newcomers” were 18 years old — and new voters?
Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s population sprinted by 3.7 percent. None of 19 Asian countries bloated like ARRM. Is this “voodoo demography’?, we wanted to ask.
We have today a glut of 10 presidential candidates. As in the 1992, 1998, and 2004 elections, the next President will get, at best, a plurality of votes, political scientist, Jose Abueva notes. Will ARRM phantom 18-year olds tip the scales?
Recent headlines postponed those questions. ”Military Defies SC Court on 43”, Inquirer’s banner read: “Despite a writ of habeas corpus, issued by the Supreme Court”, military and cops didn’t present 43 detained health workers.”
“We had “no time to coordinate security measures for the transfer”, Col. Aurelio Baladad claimed: Ha-ha-ha-ha. Excuse me. The gall and implausibility took your breath away.
Would a lowly colonel “dirty finger” a High Court order on his own? Were you born yesterday? “Inexcusable,” snapped presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro.
Human Rights Commission probers, meanwhile, reported detaines were tortured. Military shilly-shallying “goes against ‘immediacy’, the very essence of habeas corpus, HRC chair Leila de Lima said. Belated presentation of detainees only adds insult to earlier “dirty finger” injury.
Worse, it sets “dangerous precedents”, Associate Justice Normandie Pizzaro fumed. “You’re the biggest armed group in the country. Produce the living bodies.” End of lecture?, asked Sun Star’s Frank Malilong. “Such insolence would have earned swift and severe sanctions from the Court in other jurisdictions.”
Was this the hoary “good-cop-bad-cop” drill?
AFP commander-in-chief. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo didn’t whimper. The writ, after all, is not like Pampanga’s jueteng. England’s Magna Carta enacted the privilege in 1215. It has become part and parcel of law in democratic countries.
“Follow court orders,” Gen. Victor Ibrado muttered. He didn’t phone that order to habeas corpus shredders at the 2nd Infantry Division. Instead, he stapled a “to-whom-it-may concern” address. Did the general wink?
The writ enables any person to break free from illegal detention. “(It) secures for every man here, alien or citizen, against anything that is not law,” Thomas Jefferson wrote.
Thus, habeas corpus has been a keystone in all our constitutions. Not so with North Korea and Iran. So, why do some AFP officers clone Pyongyang and Tehran?
Even the dictator Ferdinand Marcos dared not shaft publicly the writ. In 1972, 20 newsmen, detained under martial law, were hauled to the Supreme Court for habeas corpus hearings.
In a “Black Maria” prison van, we were wedged, between co-detainees Amando Doronila of Daily Mirror and Philippines News Service Manuel Almario. Cowed pedestrians wouldn’t lock eyes with us. “Are we contagious?,” Evening News Luis Beltran joked.
Ferried to the Court earlier were Joaquin Roces and Maximo Soliven of Manila Times, Teodoro Locsin Sr. and Napoleon Rama of Philippine Free Press. and other journalist-detainees. Senators Benigno Aquino, Jose Diokno, Ramon Mitra, plus constitutional delegates like Tito Guingona came in separate vans.
Despite threats, National Press Club president Eddie Monteclaro and others lodged habeas corpus petitions. Among our pro-bono lawyers were: Sen. Lorenzo Tanada, Sedfrey Ordonez and Joker Arroyo.
“You can’t trust most of them,” Joker Arroyo whispered, as the Marcos Court justices filed in. “But the writ may provide a shield, however thin.” He proved right on the button. Marcos selectively released detainees. His court dismissed the pleas as “moot and academic.’ (See GR No. L35546 to 35567.)
Marcos Supreme Court legitimized actions of the President, constitutional scholar Joaquin Bernas, SJ wrote. With suspension of habeas corpus, “claims of denial of a speedy trial were unavailing”. The writ’s suspension also spiked “the right to bail”.
Before he could speak at the Manila International airport, an assassin cut down Benigno Aquino Jr. Today’s writ shredders should read his undelivered speech.
“It is most ironic, after martial law has allegedly been lifted, that the Supreme Court last April ruled it can no longer entertain petitions for habeas corpus for persons detained under a Presidential Commitment Order “, Ninoy wrote. “(This ) covers all so-called national security cases. And under present circumstances (that) can cover almost anything.”.
Since then, Filipinos chased the dictator into exile. Corazon Aquino fired supine Supreme Court justices. People Power restored suppressed rights, including habeas corpus..
Failing to learn from history, today’s military would shot craps with this critical human right. Will Commander-in-Chief Arroyo play along? Habeas corpus shredding would be added to her legacy. And that’s messy enough, as it is.