CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – The Philippine senators should not feel bad if Janet Napoles would like to keep her mouth shut if and when she finally shows up before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Even if the reigning Queen of Pork Barrel would be accused of cover-up, opening her wide mouth should not compel her either to give up her right against self-incrimination.
The right of an accused against self-incrimination is enshrined under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Sec. 17, Art. III says, “No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”
While many senators, who were linked to the P10-billion (US$238-M) scam pulled by Napoles, may hate the guts of Napoles for remaining silent, they could not do anything about it. She is merely exercising a right available to everybody, including the senator’s.
And nobody can blame her.
Although senators and ordinary people may invoke Sec. 7, Art. III’s “right of the people to information on matters of public concern” to compel Napoles to waive her right not to testify, this civil right plays second fiddle to Napoles’ civil right. Sec. 14 (1) of Art. III says, “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.”
In a landmark case reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sheppard v. Maxwell, the Court held that Sheppard’s conviction was the result of a trial in which he was denied due process.
The decision noted, among other factors, that a “carnival atmosphere” had permeated the trial, and that trial judge Edward J. Blythin, had refused to sequester the jury, had not ordered the jury to ignore and disregard media reports of the case, and when speaking to newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen shortly before the trial started said, “Well, he’s guilty as hell. There’s no question about it.”
THERE IS TIME FOR EVERYTHING
By choosing to be silent, Napoles is imploring the Biblical message of Eccleiastes 3:1-15 that “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”
I would have supported the senators’ power to compel Napoles to testify if she has not yet been charged before a prosecuting body like the Ombudsman. But the senators would now have to defer to the Ombudsman and give it the benefit to find probable cause against her.
If Napoles would not object, I suggest that the senators may initiate a move to urge the Sandiganbayan to televise the proceedings in the same way that the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona turned out to be a daily telenovela.
But if Napoles would object, then, any attempt to have her trial live on television and on other media outlets will be dead in the water.
In preventing the Maguindanao massacre trial from having live media broadcast coverage, the Philippine Supreme Court held that “allowing the public trial will deprive him (defendant Andal Ampatuan) of his rights to due process, equal protection, presumption of innocence, and to be shielded from degrading psychological punishment.
“While this court recognizes the freedom of the press and the right to public information, which by the way are rights that belong to non-direct parties to the case, the rights of the direct parties should not be forgotten. In a clash among these competing interests and in terms of the values the Constitution recognizes, jurisprudence makes it clear that the balance should always be weighed in favour of the accused.”
BLOODY EDSA III REVOLUTION?
I’m sure Napoles is guided by her self-preservation instinct that charity begins at home. Before Napoles could help the conniving senators, she would have first to take care of clearing herself from wrongdoing. If she could not even extricate herself from the massive theft of public funds, how could she clear her worried senators?
Any violation of one’s civil and human rights could lead to the erosion of some of our basic independent institutions, like the judiciary, that could only result in chaos. The murder of Sen. Ninoy Aquino, who was a victim of human rights violation, sparked the EDSA I Revolution.
Even corruption could also spark a revolution. Remember my friend, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, was charged with plunder before the outbreak of the EDSA II Revolution?
This time, a birdie told me the unfolding corruption trial involving senators and congressmen is another harbinger of a possible bloody EDSA III Revolution. He argued in his essay (http://tinyurl.com/ox29u3x) when calamities, including typhoons and earthquake, visit the Philippines, these hand writings on the wall have been likened to “Biblical Scriptures: “The second incident which Jesus addressed was a natural disaster, a tower in Jerusalem which unexpectedly collapsed, killing 18 people. The Jews often associated such calamities and disasters as a consequence of sin. Scripture does warn that sin can result in calamity! Though the righteous fall seven times, and rise again; the wicked are overthrown by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16).
But I am telling this naysayer that as long as the senators would let the system of checks and balances hold the three branches of government together and the separation of powers take hold, any talk of a bloody EDSA III Revolution by disgruntled Philippine junior military officers is premature and mere figment of imagination! (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal)