Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published on page A6 of the January 14, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror.
It’s a lynching. That’s the only way to describe what Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Dionisio Santiago instigated when he insinuated that State Prosecutor John Resado dumped a drug case in exchange for a bribe that started at P3-M and ballooned to P50-M.
Santiago’s expose resulted in a media feeding frenzy and a congressional investigation that distinguished itself for prejudging Resado.
The lynch mob never gave Resado a chance to respond to any of the accusations thrown at him.
They dismissed his explanation of a fiscal’s two-step role of impartial investigator during the inquest or discovery process and prosecutor, if probable cause is ever found.
They castigated him for his reluctance to “massage” the PDEA’s case and his “wrong” interpretation of a department order he believed contradicted the Rules of Court.
Never mind that Resado concluded there was no case to prosecute because the arrest and search were done illegally. The mob insisted a fiscal had no business acting as a judge.
Ironically, the same argument can be used against the congressmen who, only two months earlier, dismissed the impeachment case against Gloria Arroyo for lack of substance.
Party-listers for their part used Resado to go after Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary Raul Gonzalez. They said the DOJ practiced a double standard: strict adherence to technicalities when it involved drugs but not when it came to politics.
I watched two days of televised committee hearings and I’m convinced Director Santiago used the bribery allegation to draw attention away from the fact that his ballyhooed “air-tight” case was full of holes.
When asked about the expose, all he could say under oath was, “We used that to psyche out the prosecutors.”
He told the committee he had no other choice but to reveal the bribe after he learned of a text message asking why the case was still being pursued despite money being passed.
He did not tell the committee that the text message came from the wife of David Brodett, the estranged uncle of one of the suspects.
That information only came out on the second day of the hearing when Brodett, along with his wife and son, showed up as guests of PDEA.
Major Ferdinand Marcelino, the nation’s flavor of the month, added legs to Santiago’s psywar operation by testifying that he received two bribe offers not to file the case and then to drop the case.
When asked who offered the bribe, Marcelino said it was his “mistah” at the Philippine Military Academy, but he would only reveal the man’s name in executive session.
Maj. Marcelino wanted to protect a bribing mistah’s good name!
That should have raised the hackles of the congressional committee. But it did not.
The mob was only interested in proving that Resado and his colleagues were bribed. They didn’t seem to care much about who acted as middleman for the bribe.
Major Marcelino must have concluded he had a free pass and so he refused twice to appear before the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) panel investigating his allegations.
Arnel Dalumpines, head of the NBI special task force investigating the bribe, said Marcelino told investigators “it’s Justice Secretary Gonzalez who should be investigated instead of him.”
The fact is the PDEA has an in-house counsel, Alvaro Lazaro. Presumably, he reviewed the affidavits of his agents before submitting them to Resado.
If he had prepared the affidavits properly, there would have been no need for any “clarificatory questions.” The sworn statements would have stood on their own merits.
And that, by the way, is what Resado meant when he said he studied all the affidavits and counter-affidavits, and he saw no need for clarificatory questions.
But there were so many questions, as pointed out by the committee and the PDEA. So is that the fault of Resado or Lazaro?
If the committee had been impartial, if they were really searching for the truth and not just grandstanding, they would have skewered Lazaro for submitting a case worthy of Oliver Lozano and Ruel Pulido instead of lynching Resado who did everything by the book.
But what can you expect of politicians?
They know that to be against drugs is to become popular and for that they will do anything, including destroying a man’s reputation and participating in the sacrifice of due process and the rule of law.