Saturday, December 31, 2011

NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE

Mga casimanua,


Dague endong malesed nga bogtetenae, si Dennis Socrates, haga paabot y Happy New Year greetings canendong tanan.


Sa pagsalubong natin sa taong 2012, payagan po ninyo akong maghayag ng mga new year’s wishes para sa ating lalawigan:


Hindi lingid sa kaalaman ng nakararami nating mga kababayang may inaasahan tayong Recall Election patungkol sa gobernador ng ating lalawigan. Ito po ay bunsod ng petisyong inihain ng Citizens’ Recall Volunteers at Kilusang Love Malampaya ni Ginoong Cesar Rodriguez Ventura. Sana po ay mabigyang daan ang kahilingan nilang ito sapagkat ito ay karapatan din naman sa ilalim ng batas, matupad lamang ang mga kondisyong nakasaad sa Local Government Code na, sa aking pagkaalam, talagang tiniyak naman ng mga naghain ng petisyon.


Bukod sa ito ay karapatan nating mga mamamayan sa ilalim ng batas, ang Recall Election ay isang pagkakataon upang palitan ang isang lokal na opisyal, nang hindi na hintayin pang matapos ang tatlong taong termino, sapagkat bawat taong lumilipas ay malaking kawalan kapag ang opisyal na tinutukoy ay korap o walang kakayahang gampanan ang kanyang tungkulin.


Kung tutuusin nga, taun-taon, mahigit isang bilyong piso ang budget ng pamahalaang panlalawigan, at mahigit isanlibong tao ang empleyado nito, na dapat talagang panghinayangan kung pamumunuan ng isang gobernador na trapo, na ang napakababaw na pananaw sa kanyang tungkulin ay umikot lang nang umikot, mag-basketbol at mambola sa mga barangay, mamigay ng mga lapis at notebook sa ilang mag-aaral sa elementarya, gamit ang pera ng pamahalaang panlalawigan. Talagang hindi uunlad ang Palawan kung ganito ang pag-iisip ng ating pamunuan.


Nasubukan na natin ang ating gobernador. Sa siyam na taong pagiging congressman ng ikalawang distrito, walang sinabi man lamang na may laman. Hindi rin masasabing napaangat niya ang buhay ng mga taga-Sur. Inangkin nga niya bilang “kanyang” mga proyekto ang lahat ng ginawang kalsada sa Sur, lahat may karatula niya, lumalabas naman ngayong katatapos-tapos pa lamang ay sira-sira na kaagad (kailangan ipaliwanag ito ng ating gobernador). At kung hindi siya mapalitan sa pamamagitan ng inaasahang Recall Election, siyam na taon na naman tayong walang aasahan mula sa pamahalaang panlalawigan.


Kailangan natin, sa lalong madaling panahon, ang isang gobernador na may malinaw na pangitain, may pangarap para sa Palawan, at may kakayahang isakatuparan iyon.


Ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit ako bumalik sa pulitika noong halalang 2010, bilang suporta sa kandidatura ni Manong Pepito Alvarez para gobernador, sapagkat mayroon siyang mensahe ng pagbabago sa kaunlaran, at alam kong may kakayahan siyang pamunuan at pagalawin nang tama ang pamahalaang panlalawigan.


Hindi tayo pinalad na manalong gobernador si Manong Pepito Alvarez noong 2010, at isang malaking sanhi nito ang propagandang hindi raw siya taga-Palawan. Ngunit sino nga ba ang tunay na taga-Palawan? Ang Mitra ay hindi naman katutubong taga-Palawan. Si Baham hindi naman ipinanganak sa Palawan, hindi lumaki sa Palawan, hindi nag-aral sa Palawan, umangkin lang na siya ay Palawe├▒o para kumandidato.


Aco Cuyunon, aqueng tatay Cuyunon, aqueng nanay Cuyunon, aco yng bata sa Cuyo, ag colay aco sa Cuyo, ag adal sa Puerto, aqueng mga bata tanan ag aradal sa PSU. Ngunit hindi ito ang tamang batayan ng pagpili ng ating mga halal na pinuno. Kung mayroong Tsino, Amerikano, Hapon, Kastila, Ilokano, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Tagalog, o anupamang lahing kandidatong may higit na magandang pangitain para sa Palawan at kakayahang isakatuparan iyon, siya ang dapat mahalal. Sa kabilang dako, gaano man ka-Cuyunon ang isang pulitiko, kung siya ay trapo o korap o walang kakayahang mamuno, hindi siya dapat maupo nang kahit sandali sa katungkulan.


Nagkamali tayo sa nahalal na gobernador noong halalang 2010. Ang Recall Election ay isang natatanging paraan at pagkakataon upang iwasto ang pagkakamaling iyon.


Huling-huli na tayo sa ibang lalawigan at lugar. Sana nga ay maging simula ng pag-angat ng Palawan ang pagpasok ng bagong taon. Samahan po ninyo ako sa aking New Year’s wishes na ito. Kasama rin po kayo sa aking mga panalangin.


Isang pinagpalang Kapaskuhan at Bagong Taon, at all the best po sa inyong lahat!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

OPPOSITION TO HOUSE BILL NO. 1799, “AN ACT INTRODUCING DIVORCE IN THE PHILIPPINES...”

STATEMENT OF REP. DENNIS M. SOCRATES BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON REVISION OF LAWS IN OPPOSITION TO HOUSE BILL NO. 1799, “AN ACT INTRODUCING DIVORCE IN THE PHILIPPINES...” (1.VI.2011)


Madame Chair, may i be heard in opposition to House Bill No. 1799, “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines...”

With all due respect to the authors and supporters, the proposed measure—and any proposal to introduce divorce, for that matter—would run counter to the Constitution.

Section 12, Article II of the Constitution states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of the family and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution”. This is reiterated in Article XV, particularly Sections 1 and 2 thereof, which read: “Section 1. The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development. Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”

The concept of divorce is diametrically opposed to the “solidarity” and “development” of the family. Divorce is precisely the breaking apart of the marriage and the family. It is also a direct attack on the institution of marriage—which the Constitution says should be “inviolable”—since marriage is meaningless if it is not “indissoluble”. Kung hindi rin lang “until death do us part”, hindi dapat tawaging "marriage": "live-in" lang yon o "em-yu".

On the practical aspect, while there are cases where the marriage may be considered a “failure”, the social benefits accruing from an accomodation of those exceptional cases could not possibly outweigh the costs of weakening the institution of marriage in general. We would then be reducing the dis-incentives for failure—which, in the final analysis, is a matter of choice on the part of the spouses. Norms should not be made out of exceptions.

Finally, on the question of divorce, our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? Therefore now they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mt 19:3-6)

For those who think they are serving the will of the people by promoting divorce—and i strongly believe that the majority of our people do not want divorce—may i paraphrase St. Thomas More, who was martyred over this same issue of divorce: We are good servants of the people, “but God’s first”.

Thank you, Madame Chair.

O.C.P.A.J.P.M.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MALIGAYANG KAARAWAN, KASAMANG DONG!

CONTEMPLATING TRIAL BY JURY IN OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
(Speech of Rep. V. Dennis M. Socrates in the House of Representatives, 22.V.2011)


Mr. Speaker, may i be heard on a matter of personal and collective privilege: this is about our personal security, protecting the lives of citizens—and for that matter, of politicians—and the apparent inadequacy of our criminal justice system in that regard.

It bothers this representation, Mr. Speaker, that two of my best friends have already been killed, murdered, as victims of what were obviously political assassinations. I am referring to Fernando “Dong” Batul, a former Vice-Mayor of Puerto Princesa City, who was felled by assassins’ bullets on the morning of May 22, 2006; and to Dr. Gerardo Ortega, a former Provincial Board Member of Palawan, who was gunned down very recently, on the morning of January 24, 2011.

Much has been made of the fact that both Dong Batul and Doc Gerry were hard-hitting, courageous, and idealistic broadcasters; but, yes, they were also politicians—in a very real sense, our colleagues in this noble calling of politics, of public governance.

Dong Batul was like a younger brother to this representation. He and i were running mates in the 2001 elections in which he was elected as Vice-Mayor; and I, as Mayor of Puerto Princesa City.

We were also almost simultaneously unseated without completing the three-year term of office: Vice-Mayor Dong Batul by way of an election protest; and i by way of a recall election. Together, Dong Batul and i ran again for our former positions in the 2004 elections, and, after losing together, we co-hosted a radio show until his tragic, untimely demise.

Yesterday, May 22, 2011, was the fifth anniversary of Dong Batul’s assassination; and tomorrow, May 24, would be his forty-second birthday, and so i wish to take this opportunity as well to greet Dong Batul a happy dies natalis in his present heavenly abode.

But the point in invoking this privilege of being heard by this august chamber and by our nation, the substance of my gripe, is that the gunman who was charged with the murder of Dong Batul was acquitted.

Days after the assassination of my friend, former Vice-Mayor Dong Batul, several witnesses came forward to testify that they saw the actual shooting incident and knew and could identify one of the two gunmen who murdered Dong Batul. That one whom they knew and could name was Police Officer Aaron Golifardo.

Based on the sworn statements of these witnesses, an Information was filed in the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa City, docketed as Criminal Case No. 21309, entitled “People of the Philippines, plaintiff, versus PO1 Aaron Golifardo and John Doe, accused”, for Murder.

Trial proceeded only against PO1 Golifardo because the co-accused John Doe was never found nor his true name ascertained. This representation was one of the panel of private prosecutors in the proceedings representing the family of the late Dong Batul; that is, until i assumed this present position as a humble member of this august body.

The defense took the line of alibi. Surprisingly, and to the mind of this representation, unfortunately, despite positive identification by eyewitnesses whose credibility were unimpeached, in a judgment promulgated very recently, while we were on recess, decision was rendered acquitting Police Officer Golifardo of the charge.

Mr. Speaker, i am not complaining about the acquittal of Police Officer Golifardo, nor against the judge who rendered the decision. Nevertheless, based on knowledge from my direct participation in the proceedings, i think that the outcome should have been a conviction rather than an acquittal—a thinking which i know is shared by many.

But like all acquittals, that judgment is immediately final and executory and not appealable, because of the constitutional right of the accused not to be twice placed in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. Thus, to revisit here the merits of that case would be like crying over spilled lugaw. What is more worth our while is to consider the possibility of adopting the institution of “trial by jury” in our criminal justice system.

Under the present state of Philippine law, the judge presiding over a case decides “questions of fact”, based on the evidence, as well as “questions of law”, based on his technical knowledge and interpretation of existing statutes and jurisprudence. But, as the example of the Dong Batul murder case shows, such a decision arrived at by the judge hearing the case can leave in its wake widespread feelings of dissatisfaction and a sense that justice was not done. The judge may also be vulnerable—unfair though it may be—to suspicions that his judgment was motivated by considerations other than an honest and competent appraisal of the facts, based on evidence, and of the law and jurisprudence applicable.

On the other hand, in a system of trial by jury, at least for purposes of this present discussion, the judge will continue to decide questions of law as they may arise in the course of the proceedings, based on his technical knowledge and understanding of law and jurisprudence. But the questions of fact, which depend on a human, subjective, appraisal of the evidence presented, will be decided by a jury, that is, a previously empanelled group of ordinary citizens, after discussing and deliberating among themselves towards achieving unanimity—especially regarding the guilt or innocence of the accused.

In the not so distant past, discussions among the bench and bar regarding the merits of adopting a system of trial by jury ended up dismissing the idea as not feasible because: a) the average citizen is supposedly not politically mature enough to be entrusted with determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in a criminal case; and b) because of the time, effort and expense that selecting and maintaining a jury would cost during the trial period.

To the contrary, this representation submits that: a) if the average citizen is deemed politically mature enough to decide who will represent him in this august chamber, the average citizen is certainly capable of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in a criminal case; and b) considering the immense time, effort and expense cases already cost at present, the additional costs, if any, net of savings on shorter deliberation-time, would only be marginal or negligible. But we would then have the satisfaction of knowing that the evidence were seen and evaluated, and the guilt or innocence of the accused discussed and deliberated-upon, by and among a group of persons interacting as citizens conscious of civic duty, of justice, and of the common good.

It is also the submission of this representation that while a lot of people might think that juries were composed of twelve persons in all criminal cases, the number need not be that many: we can perhaps have a jury of six persons; and the mandated trial-by-jury can be limited, at least initially, to heinous crimes or to criminal cases where the imposable penalty were reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment, or death.

As i end, Mr. Speaker, i exhort our distinguished colleagues to consider and reflect upon the possibility of adopting a system of trial by jury in criminal cases, towards eventually passing a measure that would make the outcome of criminal trials less dependent on the subjective dispositions of the individual judge and more satisfactory to the public, to the political community as a whole.

Maligayang bati sa iyong kaarawan, Kasamang Dong!

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, thank you, distinguished colleagues.