Archive for January, 2009

Prosecutor John Resado Lied Under Oath. Not Once, But Twice!

Posted in Governance with tags , , , , on January 30, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

While a majority of the people believe that Prosecutor Resado is guilty of tax evasion, failure to declare true assets and liabilities and possibly even bribery, enough evidence still needs to be gathered to seal the case against him.

It may be tempting to immediately file a case against him, but any flaw, minor it may be, will be enough for the fiscal who will receive the case to dismiss the case on a technicality. We are led to believe this since we have already seen the association of prosecutors nationwide take a stand behind the embattled John Resado.

So if there is any case that will be filed against the prosecutor, it should be supported with enough evidence to make it airtight and not one prone to be dismissed on a technicality.

But at this time, there is one case that is definitely supported by strong evidence, provided by John Resado himself. There are indisputably two instances that the state prosecutor willfully and knowingly lied under oath.

During yesterday’s hearing in Congress, I questioned him on his testimony about the bribery issue and his story about how the 800,000 pesos came to his hands. In his answers, he perjured himself since he gave conflicting answers, which are all part of proceedings that were under oath.

What took me by awe is the prosecutor’s straight-faced, unflinching replies, even though it was already clear on nationwide TV that he was lying. He was the literal embodiment of “lying with a straight face” and “lying through the teeth”.

After pointing out the conflicts in his statements which I reminded him were tantamount to lying, I asked him that as a prosecutor, if a complainant or a respondent lies to him under oath, what effect will it have on him, he said that it would result in questionable credibility.

His answer is definitely applicable to him. I don’t know if it dawned on him that I had just led him to admit that he has questionable credibility, or he lacked the intellectual capacity to realize it. But the impression is that he is really a stone-faced, iron-willed liar, and I was flabbergasted at how unflinching and confident he was in facing the committee. Even if it was proven that he lied under oath.

In the previous hearing, under oath, he boldly accused PDEA lawyer Atty. Alvaro Lazaro of attempting to bribe him to dismiss the case. The congressional committee members cross examined him and were all unconvinced.

He wanted people to believe that the PDEA deliberately came up with the weak case and that the PDEA lawyer offered a bribe for him to dismiss the case. The basic question was if the case was deliberately made weak, what is the need to offer a bribe to dismiss the case? Wouldn’t the inherent lack of merit be enough to dismiss it, thereby negating the need to shell out extra money for the prosecutor?

Later on, the prosecutor did dismiss the case, citing the faulty gathering of evidence, using the “fruit of the poisonous tree” principle. So, the next question is, if the objective of the bribe offer was to dismiss the case, did he get paid when he finally dismiss it?

But in the inquest resolution which he wrote (assuming that he was really the one who wrote it), he pointed out that the PDEA attempted to remedy the weak case, but he deemed it insufficient. In his testimony before the congressional committee, he also said that the PDEA tried to bolster the case with remedial measures. Are those the acts of someone who would want the case immediately dismissed?

As I said after asking him my questions about it, his story defies logic.

When asked why it was only then that he revealed the bribery attempt, he said that he did not have the opportunity to reveal it during the congressional hearing because he was always cut off by the congressmen. Well, everybody watching on TV and listening in the radio during the coverage of the hearing knows that he had all the opportunity to say it if he wanted to.

When asked why he didn’t reveal it during the NBI investigation, he said he considered Atty. Lazaro his friend and under our culture, friends don’t rat on each other. He even described it “absurd” if he reported it. Remember, he is a prosecutor and he thinks that revealing a friend’s violation of the law is “absurd”.

Later on, I was able to get hold of a copy of the report by the National Bureau of Investigation on the inquiry they made regarding the bribery issue. As I read the entire report, I came across an entry which listed down the statements given by Prosecutor Resado.

Among other things that he revealed during the NBI investigation, he made a categorical statement that no one, not anyone, ever approached him to offer a bribe to dismiss the case or influence him in any way to make a decision.

During yesterday’s hearing, upon my questioning, he said that he voluntarily made that statement, without being asked directly about a bribe offer, unlike in the congressional hearing where he was pointedly asked if he was offered a bribe.

That means that if his accusation against Atty. Lazaro is true, then he gave a deliberately false statement to the NBI without even being prompted. That would be lying under oath since the NBI statement was made under oath.

Aside from that, he would also be liable for obstruction of justice since his statement led the NBI to believe that there was no bribe offer when, as he claimed in a congressional hearing, there was one.

Assuming that he did tell the truth to the NBI, he would then be guilty of lying under oath to the congressional committee since he categorically said there was a bribe offer. He could be cited for contempt by congress and charged with perjury.

Another case of perjury by Prosecutor Resado pertains to how he received the amount of 800,000 pesos, something which he does not deny and even offers an explanation for its legitimacy (although his story is still under doubt).

In yesterday’s hearing, he said that he received the amount in several tranches over several days. Remembering what he said in a previous hearing, I pressed him on his statement. He reiterated that he received the money over several days, that the whole amount was not given in one lump sum but in several tranches.

After making him say that, I referred to the transcript of the previous hearing and pointed out to him that during that hearing, he said that the money, which was actually 1.2 million pesos, not only 800,000 pesos (he was the one who corrected the congressmen), was given to him by his in-laws on November 30. He later deposited the 800,000 pesos on December 2. When asked how many days he had the whole amount with him, he said “only one day”, December 1.

It was another case of Prosecutor Resado in conflict with himself, under oath. It only means that he is lying, and lying deliberately. When you listen to him, he does not seem to be a confused man, and even exudes confidence and boldness when he answers questions.

I have participated in many investigations in Congress and only in rare instances do I see a resource person / witness keep his cool under the scrutiny of congressmen asking questions. Sometimes even the innocent are rattled under the pressure of several congressmen asking criss-crossing questions.

But Prosecutor Resado is quite different. He maintains his composure and answers immediately without stammering, and even looks you straight in the eye. Even if you’ve already caught him lying.

I don’t know what the other prosecutors are thinking now. I can understand why their initial reaction was to rush to his side and defend him during the initial stages of the inquiry. After all, one of their own was under attack.

But after going through all the hearings and seeing the outcome, do they still think that standing by Prosecutor Resado is worth it?

Set aside the issues of bribery, tax evasion, undeclared wealth etc. Those still have to undergo further inquiries and gathering of evidence. But what about perjury? The evidence is there, forever etched in the transcripts of the proceedings in Congress and the NBI.

As prosecutors, they know the value of telling the truth under oath. As John Resado himself pointed out, false testimony leads to questionable credibility. He even cited conflicting statements by the PDEA agents to put a cloud of doubt over the credibility of the buy-bust operation which led him to ultimately dismiss the case.

Now it his turn to give conflicting statements. By the same measure that he judged the PDEA agents, so too, he should be judged. Right now, his credibility is as believable as the idea that elephants can fly.

The Butcher is Coming to Town

Posted in Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , on January 24, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

Once again, prudence and sensitivity to public opinion has taken a back seat in the appointment of another controversial figure to a government post. Retired General Jovito Palparan, who has earned the nickname “The Butcher” owing to his aggressive strategies in dealing with communist insurgents which coincided with suspected rebels turning up as dead bodies, will join the Dangerous Drugs Board in what appears to be an effort by government to show that it is serious in its campaign against illegal drugs.

In the wake of tarnished reputations of the DOJ and the PDEA due to allegations of bribery, case manipulation and incompetent law enforcement, the government now attempts to remedy the situation with the appointment of someone who has quite a colorful reputation himself, having been implicated in the abduction, torture and killing of the Manalo brothers ( Read it here and here ).
Will his reputation of employing extra-judicial methods be the cure for the ailing reputations of the DOJ and PDEA? Instead of gaining the confidence of the people, the Palparan appointment will only draw criticism and dilute whatever public support the government has in the fight against illegal drugs.
Naturally, human rights and other progressive groups will raise a howl about the appointment. The grant of a position for Palparan will seem to them as a reward and condonation for the brutal acts being attributed to the retired general. ON the other hand, it seems that the government is indeed harping on the reputation of Palparan as The Butcher in bolstering its campaign against illegal drugs.
In other words, they are employing the scare tactic, sending a message to the drug traffickers that they better watch out, The Butcher is coming to town. “You wouldn’t want to end up dead floating in a creek with your fingernails removed and a bullet hole in your head ”, seems to be the message.
This purpose for Palparan’s appointment is evident In an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer which said: “If that is his image (butcher), then that will work well for us. It’s the drug traffickers who should fear him, not the public,’’ DDB chair Vicente “Tito’’ Sotto III said in a phone interview.
The problem with this is that while it may sound threatening, it will be taken seriously by the drug traffickers only if The Butcher will live up to his reputation. Meaning to say, some drug pushers will have to end up dead first, with the obvious signs of a summary execution. In order for The Butcher’s reputation to be substantiated, he will have to deliver on that reputation. And I’m willing to bet that a tough-looking and tough-talking general who has been praised in no less than the State of the Nation Address in spite of protestations from human rights groups will be more than eager to prove his mettle as a solution to the drug problem.
Is that really what the government wants? While it bucks the proposal to impose the death penalty on drug traffickers after they go through the due process of legal arrest, trial and conviction, it employs the threat of extra-judicial action?
I have nothing personal against General Palparan. Although he has that reputation of being a human rights abuser, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. IN the same manner, anyone and everyone is innocent until proven guilty after due process. Even suspected drug traffickers.
But in public service, it is important that government acts in prudence, and be sensitive to perceptions about its actions. In employing the services of someone who does not have the confidence of the people, the government loses credibility and its actions will then be put under question.
While we all want to put an end to the drug problem, we also do not want short cut solutions that undermine the institutions of this country and destroy the moral fiber of our nation. Government must be true to the ideals of justice, liberty and equality, and at the same time be an example of prudence and sensitivity.
Not only do we need good governance. We need DECENT GOVERNANCE.

My Speech During the Parole and Probation Administration Seminar

Posted in Governance, Inner Thoughts, Speeches with tags , , , , on January 13, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

I was invited as guest of honor for the welcome dinner during the In-Country Training on Volunteer Resource Development conducted by the Parole and Probation Administration in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute (UNAFEI). The seminar was aimed at enhancing the PPA’s recruitment and training of Volunteer Probation Aides (VPAs). In attendance were the Regional Directors of the PPA, some VPAs and 8 probation officers from Japan. The event was held in the University Hotel, University of the Philippines, January 12, 2009.

To know more about the Parole and Probation Administration, visit http://www.probation.gov.ph.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Good evening.

Lately, controversy has hounded the country’s Justice System.

The celebrated case of the so-called Alabang Boys which came to the public’s attention because of the alleged bribery for their release, also revealed that the pillars of the criminal justice system are not as strong as we would want them to be.

One of the pillars, Law Enforcement, has been hounded for a long time by many flaws, although sincere efforts are being made to reform that sector. Considering the challenges and circumstances of law enforcement, it really is not a surprise that it is the most prone to attacks to its integrity.

But the most revealing, if not shocking, reality that the Alabang Boys case presented to us is that attacks on the integrity of the criminal justice system goes all the way to the prosecution of cases and probably even the courts. It is indeed a worrisome revelation, since if these allegations of malpractice of justice are proven, it could be considered a threat to democracy itself because justice is a necessary and crucial element of democracy.

If justice is flawed, how can one be guaranteed of life, liberty and equality?

In the discussions of the Alabang Boys case, there seems to be one other aspect that has been left out. Assuming that a solution has been found to address the problems of law enforcement, of the prosecution and of the courts, what about after an accused has been convicted? Can we say that our Corrections system is not likewise flawed?

I represent the Lone District of Muntinlupa City, where the national penitentiary, the Bilibid Prison, is located. In the close to eight years that I have served in this capacity, I have come to know the realities of life behind the Bilibid’s bars and walls.

One reality is that in the prison, not all inmates are equal. Some have better privileges, while many live a life of submission, hardship and social isolation. Some have airconditioned cells with all the comforts and appliances of home, while many don’t even have a space they can call their own to sleep in. Some continue the life of crime that they lived before they were incarcerated, while many have long repented and are on the way to a reformed life.

Another pillar in danger of crumbling is the Corrections, primarily due to the attitude that the government, and even the Community, has towards this crucial element in the Justice System.

This is already my third term as congressman, and for three Congresses, I have been pushing for the upgrading of the salary grades of our corrections officers or prison guards. They have long been left behind by their comrades in the other services such as the PNP, AFP and even the BJMP. The budget allocated by government for the maintenance, upkeep and expansion of prison facilities remain way below the ideal level. The food that is supposed to nourish the inmates do little to give proper nutrition.

Sadly, the Community, or society, does not see the corrections as something that would merit their concern. Out of sight, out of mind.

But there is one agency that provides a silver lining to our tarnished justice system. Without much fanfare but with the most noble objective, the Parole and Probation Administration is doing work that best exemplifies the mission of restoring order in a society that has been shattered by crime.

The PPA provides an opportunity for offenders who meet a certain qualification to be reintegrated back into society without the agony of prolonged incarceration. Sometimes, instead of reformation, being caged behind bars only drags a person further down the path of self-destruction and further away from family and fellowman.

The new lease on life provided by the parole and probation program enables a qualified offender to remain within the normal social sphere, thereby making immediate re-integration possible and seamless.

Of course, it is not difficult to appreciate that the program also prevents the further deterioration of our Correctional system in that it seeks to lessen the burden on the resources needed to keep an inmate in prison.

Thus, the importance and relevance of the otherwise low-profile agency that is the Parole and Probation Administration cannot be denied. While it may not garner the spotlight like other agencies do, and its officials will not get the public attention such as other officials have, its contribution to the strengthening of the country’s Justice System is one that should not be ignored.

Now if we see the PPA as silver lining, there’s more to that agency that would merit the people’s accolade.

The agency’s use of Volunteer Probation Aides (VPAs) is indeed an approach that makes the PPA more effective. Not only do VPAs serve as a force multiplier, they also make reintegration into society a whole lot easier.

With the VPAs, pillars of justice come full circle— it started with the Community (Community, Law Enforcemet, Prosecution, the Courts, the Corrrections), and it ends with the Community.

As I mentioned earlier, the challenge for Corrections is that they have been relegated to being “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” by society. But with a program such as the VPA, the community can get involved and thereby have a direct hand in rehabilitating an offender. No longer will they be in danger of being pushed further away by an apathetic society, but rather embraced much like the prodigal son who returned to the arms of his forgiving father. We are, after all, one family, the Filipino Nation.

It is therefore imperative that such a program be given support and constant efforts to enhance its capability should be undertaken.

In this light, I commend the Parole and Probation Administration, with the cooperation and support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute (UNAFEI) for this endeavor of further developing the capabilities of our VPAs through this training on the Holistic Approach to Volunteer Resource Development.

While on its own, the PPA and the VPAs can stand and claim merit, there is always room for improvement and there is always something new to learn. Constantly looking for ways to serve our constituents better is the characteristic of a true public servant, and a tangible way of living up to the PPA’s slogan “Service Integrity is Our Passion.”

As you commence this training program, I urge you to seek a standard that will be high enough to make significant milestones but low enough to make it realistic. Bear in mind that the work you do is not for personal satisfaction and fulfillment, but for the redemption of a soul and the restoration of a society.

As I end, allow me to leave you with a personal note of appreciation for the work you are doing for our wayward countrymen. If there are people who provide a glimmer of hope for this nation, you are definitely included among them.

Thank you very much and may God bless us all.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

What is Legal May Not Necessarily Be Correct

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

The public has been treated to a revelation of the realities of the country’s drug problem. The congressional hearings on the Brodett-Joseph-Tecson drugs case has shown us the challenges faced by the agencies involved in the fight against dangerous drugs as well as the defects and shortcomings of the system.

One glaring and bitter lesson from these hearings is that what is legal may not necessarily be correct. Or, as others have said, what is legal may not necessarily be moral.

For instance, it was perfectly legal for the prosecutor not to ask clarificatory questions during his evaluation of the case. In deciding to dismiss the case of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) against the suspected drug pushers, Prosecutor John R. Resado only relied on the affidavits which were submitted to him by both sides. In defending his action (or inaction), Prosecutor John R. Resado said that both parties had the opportunity to file counter-affidavits which would have enabled the PDEA to explain their side.

While the prosecutor is correct in saying that (that’s what the law provides), it must be noted that it is the prosecutor who will make a decision on the case, therefore, it is he who is in the best position to determine which items need clarificatory questions. According to the prosecutor, the law does not require him to ask clarificatory questions. It was perfectly legal for him not to ask questions.

But was he correct in not asking questions?

For humans who have been blessed with the capacity to think, it is natural and even instinctive to ask questions. An inquisitive mind is one of the qualities which distinguish us from apes and robots. If something is not clear to you, questions automatically pop up in your mind.

But no, the prosecutor did not find it necessary to ask clarificatory questions before making his decision. He said the affidavits submitted were sufficient. In comparison, bills filed in Congress (which are products of extensive research and study) still get grilled with numerous clarificatory questions, because legislators want to make sure that before they make decisions, they have considered it with due diligence.

While the prosecutor says he found it unnecessary to ask clarificatory questions, his own resolution, which he supposedly wrote himself, posed several queries which were apparently playing around in his mind. These points he raised had the effect of making the case of the PDEA weak in the eyes of the reader of the resolution.

But while he had those questions in his mind, he never bothered to ask those questions directly to the PDEA in order to give them the chance to answer them.

In one example of the several questions posed by the prosecutor in his resolution but not in clarificatory questions, the prosecutor cast doubt on the buy-bust operation of the PDEA by citing as incredible the information that only one agent was involved in the buy-bust.

But the PDEA explained in the congressional hearing that yes, there was only one agent conducting the actual deal with the suspect but there was an arresting team and a back-up team within the vicinity of the operation ready to take action when appropriate and necessary. If the prosecutor had asked clarificatory questions, they could have explained that to him. But as he proudly he told the congressional committee, he did not see the need to ask.

His decision not to ask questions, though legal, seems to have jeopardized the case against the suspected drug traffickers. In the larger picture, it weakened the government’s war against dangerous drugs. A case of something legal that is not necessarily correct.

Another example of a legal but incorrect act is the use of a Department of Justice letterhead by the counsel of the suspects to make a Release Order which he tried to have the DOJ Secretary sign outside the official process of the department.

Up to this time, Atty. Felisberto Verano insists that there was nothing illegal in his act of making a release order on a DOJ letterhead since the document was not signed by Secretary Gonzales. He maintains that since it was not signed, it remains to be a mere scrap of paper.

While it may not be illegal for him to use the letterhead, it is definitely not correct. He might escape the ethical case filed against him, but it does not change the fact that it is not right for someone not organic to the DOJ to type a letter on it for the purpose of effecting an official act of an officer of the agency. While he may have been performing his legal duty as counsel of the accused, he was wrong in pre-empting the Secretary of Justice by preparing the order especially because he is not even an employee of the DOJ.

The Secretary of Justice has his staff to do the work for him, staff who are accountable and responsible for the results of the process within their office.

This has even led me to propose a law specifically prohibiting unauthorized use of a government office’s letterhead. The proposal merited an amused comment from a radio announcer, who seemed to think that it was a petty proposal. Well, it may appear petty, but as we have seen, it has profound effects on the whole government system.

We have seen many times in the past lawyers who argue in favor of a position which they say is legal. Many times they have prevailed in the arguments because indeed, legality is on their side. But many times also, we have seen that what is legal may not necessarily be correct. Well, such is a lesson that legislators, myself included, must keep in mind while crafting the laws that will ultimately rule over our lives.