Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Warrant of arrest issued vs. all members of GSIS Board

The new members of the GSIS Board of Trustees are considered “heroes” here in General Santos City for solving the long pestering housing problem in Doña Soledad, Labangal, General Santos City. This representation is one of the beneficiaries of their good deeds.

 

It can be recalled that because of their problems, the retirement benefits of, more or less, 600 government employees were clipped, and those who have retired did so without receiving anything for GSIS in terms of old-age benefits. This housing problem has created so many sob stories of government employees wallowing in crippling poverty after they had retired. Not only that their pensions were confiscated, but their housing units remain under threat of being attached.

But before the court bulldozed the affected government employees from their respective housing units, the new members of GSIS Board, with former Akbayan Congressman, Mario J. Aguja, as one of the members came to the rescue by coming up with a very reasonable buy-back scheme with affordable market price, thrashing all arrearages and penalties.

However, the people to whom we owe gratitude are now about to be incarcerated as a warrant of arrest has been issued against them. We need to support the cause of these idealistic people. We pave the way for the news article below so we may know the reason for the travails of these good, altruistic people:

“In their effort to settle a 21-year-old case involving an 82-year-old widow, the newly constituted GSIS Board  of Trustees  is  facing  the  challenge  of  an  arrest warrant  issued  by  Judge Roberto Mislang of RTC Branch 167 of Pasig.

“The  arrest  warrant,  issued  March  31,  2011,  was  based  on  a  petition  for  indirect  contempt filed  last March 14, 2011.  Judge Mislang found the Trustees liable for alleged violation of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued on March 2, weeks after the settlement between the GSIS and 82-year-old Rosario Santiago had been executed.

“The settlement case between the GSIS and Mrs.  Santiago  stemmed  from  a  question  of  land ownership  that can be  traced back  to  the 70s. The case was decided in favor of Mrs. Santiago against the GSIS in 1999 and became final and executory in 2004.

“The  previous  Board  tried  to  prevent  the  decision  from  being  implemented  by  filing  a  total of  three  motions  for  reconsideration  before  the  Supreme  Court  which  were  all  denied.  As a  last  recourse  to  protect  the  state  pension  fund,  the  current  Board  filed  a  fourth motion  for reconsideration  to  no  avail. The Supreme Court ruled with finality on December 14, 2010 in favor of Mrs. Santiago.

“Hence, the GSIS settled with Mrs. Santiago on the basis of the final Supreme Court Decision.

“The TRO,  issued March  2,  2011, which was  granted  in  favor  of  a  certain Antonio Vilar  and Harold Cuevas, directed  the GSIS Board  to  turn over  to Vilar and Cuevas  the  sums of money adjudged in another case and by another court specifically, Branch 71 of RTC Pasig City.

“Incidentally, Vilar and Cuevas were not parties in the case of Mrs. Santiago. After having gotten wind of the settlement, Vilar and Cuevas all of a sudden surfaced to claim their supposed shares.

“Surprisingly, the TRO gave credence to the supposed right of Cuevas, which only came from an assignment made in his favor by Vilar.  The assignment however was done only on 15 February, 2011 and for only 1/2% of the judgment award in favor of Mrs. Santiago which had long become final in 2004.

“The provisions of the TRO were also highly irregular.   A TRO  is only supposed  to prevent  the Board  of  Trustees  from  doing  certain  acts,  but  the  one  issued  by  Judge Mislang  also  forced them to carry out some acts which they can no longer do since the GSIS and Mrs. Santiago have already entered into a settlement even before the complaint was filed.

“The TRO, in effect, inappropriately resolved the main issue of the case without the benefit of a trial, without considering available evidence, and without observing due process.

“The GSIS,  for  its  part,  is  exhausting  all  available  legal  remedies  to  annul  the  orders  of  Judge Mislang.     However, all members of  the Board are prepared and willing  to go  to  jail  if  this  is the  result of  their collective decision  to protect  the pension  fund and  its more  than 1.7 million members and pensioners. (end)

 

 


The family of Myrna Reblando could have been a perfect Filipino family had her husband, Bong Reblando, not been there in Maguindanao when the “myths”, in whose assuring principle we relied on our safety since the advent of modern civilization, were shattered.

For so long a time, we find comforts on the thoughts that being in a company of (1) crowd of people, (2) throng of women, and of  (3) group of media practitioners are enough armor to ensure our safety and security. However, these “myths” were shattered by the Maguindanao Massacre.

Really, death comes in so many ways. Sometimes by one’s own folly, many times by the folly of others, and, in other times, by sheer coincidence.

Myrna’s husband, Bong, died consequential to a rupture that shattered the “myths” with which the media and other activist movements hath considered as life’s formidable ramparts. It was just unfortunate that her husband was there when the “myths” were torn apart.

Some say that the Mindanao massacre was divined to free the people of Maguindanao, and other parts of the Island, from the claws of fear, oppression, injustice and death, and those who perished there were offered in the altar of sacrifice in order for society to correct itself.

Bong and the rest were just unfortunate to be there when the journey of civilization made a sudden pivotal twist, with Myrna and many others, bearing the painful social costs inherent to the making of history.

Of course, Myrna, like the rest, cannot just easily accept that it is her husband, Bong, who should render a great sacrifice for society’s self-correction and for the natural processes of its becoming.

In her recent appearance on TV one year after the savagery, Myrna wept and wailed even louder than she did a year ago while actually seeing the body of her husband – cold, mangled, bathed in crimson blood, and dead.

There is a natural logic to this human tendency. Myrna’s situation is more painful this time than it was a year ago.

It is during this period that the feeling of emptiness visits frequently in unlikely moments and in its most haunting fashion. Certainly, it is also during this same period that one’s remembering of sweet and happy memories of a fallen loved one, especially if the fall was caused by the fiercest of all evils, and done in its most barbaric form, is an excruciating experience.

Adding to the pain is how the case against the Ampatuans had dragged for years, without any substantial breakthroughs. Compounding the pain is the thought that, considering the very slow pace that the case advances, the trial may still last for another ten years.

These deplete any hope for justice. There is also nothing more vexing to Myrna and the rest than thinking about the probability of their losing in the “war attrition” against the well-placed culprits, who clearly use the element of time as a potent weapon.

After all, there is nothing more painful than graphically seeing our bleak future looming in the horizon.

If there is a reason for Myrna’s more furious cries nowadays, then, it is this. Tired, scarred and hapless, the families of the victims are still being made to undergo by our country’s justice system a high level of difficulty, as if they are waging a revolution, where triumph is uncertain and defeat is a great possibility.

But Myrna is right in seeking solace to her angry tears. Anger would give her strength. It will give her a sustaining power to bear the unbearable, cling strongly to her dream for justice no matter how impossible, and to finally attain it.

Anger is an awesome power that could make her overcome all obstacles like an avenging angel, give justice to her husband and a good future to her children, and, eventually, to attain peace to herself.

Without Myrna knowing it, the angry tears she shed, while being interviewed on a national TV, had moved the whole nation once again. Our desire for justice is restored. Our drive to work for a peaceful Mindanao is, once again, given life.

Myrna’s angry tears carry an awesome power that we, as a nation, cannot resist. We must respond to the call.

When the “myths” burst, Myrna emerges as the symbol of our struggle and the fleshly embodiment of our hope for this nation.

In the search of what is moral in the field of law, is it at all possible?

In the first blush, the question appears very simple but, in a deeper analysis, it is very complicated, novel and encompassing. A comprehensive response to such a question involves almost all facets of our social existence and all dimensions of human life, as contextualized in different strands of our various historical epochs.

Specifically, the question whether our search for morality in the field of law is possible is a question that requires an in-depth examination of 1.) the character and growth of the prevailing civilization 2.) the evolution of laws and legal order, and 3.) the operating socio-economic and political environment that affect laws and human civilizations. We will prove these contentions in our succeeding discussions.

However, we would like to state at this juncture that, although it is terribly difficult, our search for morality in law is still possible and in fact our human civilization has already made remarkable achievements in such struggle.

Our discussions are founded on the following assumptions: 1. that laws are passive instruments and they remain immobile until they are enforced and aggressively used as weapons for the protection of individual and public rights; 2. that laws have human and institutional components and so they are subject to institutional and individual frailties and weaknesses, in terms of their enforcement and their use as weapons for the protection of rights; 3. that the enforcement of laws is affected by the prevailing socio-economic and political environment and is, therefore, limited by the operating social structures.

In the same vein, our search for what is moral in the fields of law is also influenced by the above factors.

The Growth of Filipino Civilization and Our Continuing Search for Morality in the Field of Law.

Allow us to start our discussion by declaring, in advance, that, in the history of our civilization, so many victories that tended to reinforce morality in the field of law have been won and that, if they are combined within one cluster of human achievement, they can already be considered very significant.

Our laws, especially our criminal laws, have moorings on two philosophical frameworks: 1.) that men and women are, by nature good, and they stick to what is moral until they are forced by circumstances to do evil deeds and, therefore, there is a need for laws to prevent them from doing such evil deeds and 2.) that men and women are, by nature, bad and, therefore, stricter laws are needed to deter them from doing evil deeds.

This position is very contentious. But, it is our contention that the second doctrinal frame is finding popular application in Philippine society. Following the long journey of our laws and legal system, morality in law had also advanced in shapes and forms in conformity with the growth of civilization.

From the Code of Kalantiao, wherein the guilt of the accused was determined based on the extent of the physical damage caused by the dipping of his/her hands into the boiling water and he/she who have been found guilty was being feed to crocodiles, among others, a restitution of his/her sins had been radically transformed.

Our prevailing due process of law is now largely following the American model and cruel and inhuman penalties are now constitutionally banned. This alone spelled tremendous victory in our struggle for what is moral in the field of law and present a hard proof that we can still achieve more.

Laws regulating institutional and individual actions have been passed for the general population and those that are tasked for enforcement of the law and legal processes. What is notable here is the fact the Supreme Court has effected major revisions in Rules of Court in order to meaningfully guarantee the people’s equal access to justice and the smooth administration and dispensation of justice.

Again, the prevailing Rules of Court could be made as one of the potent instruments to aid the people in their search for morality in the field of law. More importantly, legal and judicial ethics, made stricter by various jurisprudences or case laws, have been uncompromisingly applied to ensure that judges and lawyers do not use their knowledge of law to abuse the weak and the ignorant.

Lawyers have in their hands an awesome power, considering their easy access to all institutions of justice and their heavy initiations in the field of law. If allowed to go wild and afforded certain leverage for abuse, lawyers are actually capable of putting society into tremendous danger.

Thus, legal and judicial ethics are strictly enforced to prevent lawyers from becoming legal monsters so that we may continue to enjoy the blessing of our democratic way of life and to save society.

It is also for this reason that the standards of integrity that the Code of Professional of Responsibility were made at par with the standards for the canonization of saints. The lawyers’ code of conduct invades not only the lawyers’ dispositions in dealing with their clients, their brothers and sisters in the legal profession and the court but also so in their dealings with their communities and personal lives, to include how they deal with their marital or love affairs.

The Code requires lawyers not only to be moral but to publicly appear as moral – embodiments of moral virtues. Therefore, the lawyers’ code of conduct is one that gives our people hope for the success of their collective struggle to attain morality in the legal arena.

There are also specific laws that could help us in our struggle for morality in the field of law. Government officials and employees can be charged either before the Ombudsman or the civil courts for graft and corruption and for the commission of crimes penalized under the Revised Penal Code or RPC.

With graft and corruption becoming pervasive in both lower and higher echelons of the government bureaucracy, our people are armed with the Anti-graft and Corrupt practices Act and the Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees to preserve or restore morality in the government.

The Anti-graft and corrupt practices act and the Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees are legal instruments that could also aid our search for morality in the field of law.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Law is also succeeding to temper police abuses in both urban and rural communities. The law empowers people, through the People’s Law enforcement Board, also known as the people’s court due to its multi-sectoral composition, to seek justice for themselves without undergoing expensive court litigation.

Barangay Courts are also functioning in all villages all over the country, ensuring the people’s democratic access to resources, justice and legal rights. With the destruction of the environment having been catapulted by the Vatican as primus inter pares (fist among equals) in the hierarchy of mortal sins, the doctrine of inter-generational responsibility for the protection of the environment, as articulated in Oposa vs. Factoran, gives us a ray of hope that the inheritors of our country’s future can now join in the legal battle for the protection of the environment.

Rules on how the people cover themselves with mantles of protection through the issuance of the Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Habeas Data have already been laid down by the Supreme Court. These are classical issuances that make very possible the attainment of morality in the field of law. Laws ensuring morality in the legal field are in abundance.

Despite criticisms against individuals and institutions tasked for the enforcement of these laws, yet our achievement in this arena of struggle cannot be discounted and undervalued. Therefore, rather than working for the collapse of these institutions, we need to contribute in overall efforts geared toward their strengthening and revitalization.

What we actually need is a program that empowers people to advocate for morality in law and to enforce their rights so that society is finally freed from systematic abuse and exploitation.

The Prevailing Law and Its Metamorphosis.

Our judicious appreciation of the metamorphosis of the law in our country could bring us to a conclusion that our pursuit for morality in the legal arena can still come into fruition. Admittedly, it is not easy, especially if we are to consider the peculiarity of Philippine society. But morality in law has already made remarkable advances with the passage of time and no one can anymore claim the contrary, without running roughshod over truth.

The evolution of morality in the field of law in this country has been traversing along rolling contours, frequently punctuated by many ascending spirals. But still it can be said that morality in the field of law continues to swing into the side of human dignity and liberty

During the pre-colonial period, morality in law was mainly made dependent upon operational cultures, which served, at the same time, as virtual laws governing human actions and the workings of social structures. In effect, the operating cultures in different strands within our various historical epochs served as benchmarks in the determination of morality in law.

Human civilizations had made significant breakthroughs in this and these breakthroughs alone offer enough proofs that our search for morality in law is very possible. For instance, autocratic social relations between the Datus and their subjects in different Moro Sultanates during the pre-colonial period had been almost discarded following the advent of modernity, characterized by the Moro people’s wider access to education and unhampered immersion to the bigger Philippine Society.

During that particular era, the people merely served as instruments of production for the glorification of the Datus and their respective families. Today, the Moro people, regardless of social and economic status, are playing a wider role in their respective societies.

Although some vestiges of feudalism still remain in these societies, still, it cannot be said that the situation has not improved at all, if we are to vividly examine the journey of Moro civilization in this country. As the Moro civilization advances, so does the morality in law.

Individual rights are more recognized now than before, both in terms of operational culture and in terms of the application of the law. It may be not as perfect as we want it to be but morality in law is steadily advancing towards the celebration of human dignity and freedom in our modern times.

Moreover, the patriarchal nature of Moro Society is steadily banishing as more and more women are catapulted at the helms of political leadership, which was once an exclusive domain for men. The peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the ongoing peace talks between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may have their own fatal flaws but these succeeded to escalate public discourses involving morality in the field of law.

These discourses are bringing to the fore the need for morality in the legal field. On the other hand, the morality in the field of law, involving indigenous peoples in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, is also advancing in terms of their appreciation of the philosophy of life and human existence.

Although colonialism has erased the culture of collectivity that governed Indigenous Peoples’ societies, still it cannot be said that morality in the field of law involving such societies has failed to advance in conformity with the march of civilization. For instance, the wider segment of the women population is now empowered and is refusing to submit to the traditional system of patriarchy, characterizing Indigenous People’s societies.

As a whole, the Indigenous Peoples can now take refuge on the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) for the protection of their remaining lands and for the restoration of what had been theirs and the preservation of their respective cultures.

Also, with the enforcement of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code (LGC), the Indigenous Peoples are also given access to justice and decision-making. The existence of various laws protecting the rights of the minors and children, the rights of the elderly and the differently-abled persons and the rights of women are significant breakthroughs in the search for morality in the field of law.

In addition, the continuing people’s campaign, both inside and outside congress, for the passage of laws protecting the rights of gays and lesbians and the prostituted women are public discourses that contribute in our search for what is moral in the field of law. The 1987 constitution is fraught with provisions guaranteeing protection for the human, political and economic rights of individuals and also guaranteeing social justice and economic equity for all the people, especially the poor and the underprivileged. Although so many social justice and equity provisions in the 1987 Constitution are yet to be given flesh by the passage of appropriate enabling laws (for instance the constitutional provisions on profit sharing and on the banning of political dynasties), this same Constitution is still considered far better than the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions and even the Malolos Constitution. It is just, however, regrettable that the provisions pertaining to property relations found in the Malolos constitution, which paved the way for the Commonwealth Republic, were not revived in the 1987 constitution, to free the country from the present absolutist system of property ownership.

Fortunately, Amendment No. 6, which gives the head of state the right to incarcerate any citizen without charges through the issuance of a presidential commitment order or PCO under the 1973 constitution, was no longer carried in the 1987 constitution. Instead, the 1987 Constitution provided far more stringent requirements for the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the declaration of martial Law, state of rebellion and state of emergency.

Moreover, under the prevailing constitution, the declaration of all these crisis measures does not result to the abolition of Congress and disrupt the smooth functioning of the civil courts. With summary killings of progressive forces now become virtual state agenda and abuse of government positions and the integrity of individuals become more pervasive, the Supreme Court effected the Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Habeas Data to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens.

The indigenous communities have been speedily becoming libertarian societies. The head-hunting culture of the natives of Central Luzon has banished. The descendants of the Tabons in Palawan have become very gentle in their dealings with women. The Negritos of the Visayas have long forgotten the Code of Kalantiao.

All these are the results of our collective struggle in search for what is moral in the fields of law.

Transforming the Socio-economic and Political Environment.

There is an abundance of laws which could aid us in our search for morality in the field of law. Our little victories in this arena of struggle can serve as building blocks for the moral legal edifice that we aspire for our country.

While we have plenty of laws to ensure morality in law, our work should not be limited to enforcement of existing laws but for continuing legal discourses that could result to radical changes in the prevailing laws – changes that reform and transform society. We have reasons for these. As long as the people are embroidered in unjust social structures, they continue to become victims of their own society.

Thus under such circumstances, morality in the field of law can only be attained if society is transformed and the laws are adjusted in conformity with the new order.

Conclusion.

Can we still attain morality in the fields of law? The answer is an unequivocal, yes! We still have a very young republic. As moment in any revolutionary struggle is measured by 50 years, so does our search for morality in the field of law.

We have just celebrated the centennial anniversary of our republic, and, therefore, what we have expended in our search for such morality are just a little more than two moments.

Within this short period, our achievement in our collective search of what is moral in the field of law is already tremendous and we still continue to speedily advance in our campaign for morality in the same field.

At our levels as law students, we make the search for such morality by participating in social discourses and in the campaigns for the strengthening of state institutions involved in the administration and dispensation of justice.

Again, is it possible? As long as we have the courage to exercise our civil liberties, it is possible. As long as the people do not sleep on their rights, it is possible. As long as we continue to contribute a little to ensure sanity in society, it is possible.

Hope springs eternal, so is our search for morality in the field