OPINION: 'Chief Justice’s fight is our fight,' say kin of Duterte drug war victims

Inday Espina-Varona -- scaRRedcat

Posted at Apr 16 2018 07:10 PM

Nanette Castillo poured out her rage and grief at the intersection of the Supreme Court’s summer headquarters in Baguio City. 

The mother of 32-year-old Aldrin, shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen in October 2017, cursed President Duterte for a drug war that has felled at least 4,000 mostly poor Filipinos.

Castillo, facing a line of grim-faced young cops, called Duterte “an executioner”.

“He ordered the killings,” she charged. “He even told police that if the suspects don’t have guns, they should force guns on them, plant drugs on them.”

“No killers would be that brazen unless they have partners among the police, or if they are actually cops in disguise,” the bereaved mother said in Filipino. “The police stood unmoving as I screamed for help, as my son grew cold in my arms.”

Castillo and other members of Rise Up, an organization of drug war victims’ families, were among 500 protesters at a rally calling for the junking of a quo warranto petition against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

On April 17, they will be marching to the Supreme Court to demand the inhibition of five “biased” justices who obeyed the House of Representatives’ summons to appear in impeachment proceedings.

‘This also about us’ 

“We are not lawyers, but we see what this is all about,” Castillo said in an interview after her speech. 

“This is about Duterte not wanting to give the Chief Justice due process. This is also about us. This is about him wanting to control the Supreme Court as he now controls Congress.” 

Brushing away tears, Castillo said: “Kapag wala na si Sereno, mawawalan na pag-asang makamit pa ng anak ko ang hustisya.” (Sereno’s ouster will dash hopes of getting justice for my son.) 

Castillo said Sereno’s ouster would affect all courts. 

“Damay-damay yan. Matatakot na ang mga huwes. Tawagin ba naman ng Presidente kaaway si CJ. May taning na ng quo warranto. Susundin na lang ang utos ni Duterte.” (If they oust Sereno, judges in other courts will get scared. Imagine, the President declaring himself the enemy of the CJ. The possibility of quo warranto will be a threat. Everyone will give in to Duterte’s wishes.)
“Idri-dribble lang nila ang mga kaso ng tokhang at iba pang human rights violations,” she added. (They will just delay resolution of cases of drug war killings and other human rights violations.)

SALN issue 

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition, asking the Court to nullify Sereno’s appointment as chief justice.

The filing came as the House wrapped up preliminary hearings on lawyer Lorenzo Gadon’s impeachment complaint.

Calida asked for Sereno’s ouster, claiming she had failed to file a complete record of her statements of assets, liabilities and network (SALN) as required for all applicants to the chief justice post.

After the Baguio oral arguments, Calida claimed Sereno lacks at least ten years of SALNs.

Sereno’s lawyers said they had retrieved 11 of her old SALNs, including those when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines.

But the laywers said the chief justice would only present these SALNs to a Senate impeachment court, as she is challenging the legality of the quo warranto petition. 

Calida and Gadon have called the retrieval “immaterial,” insisting Sereno should have submitted the documents at the time of application although other justices also filed incomplete SALN records. 

Who do we turn to? 

Rise Up shared the stage with Sereno, indigenous leaders and journalists on April 9, the National Day of Valor, receiving awards for courage from a network of organizations, including clergy of different faiths. 

Emily Soriano, whose 15-year-old son, Angelito, was one of seven people gunned down on December 28, 2016, said the families of the victims draw strength from each other.

“Every tragedy is personal but experience taught us to empathize with others,” she said in a response for Rise Up. “From my tragedy, to our tragedy as a people.”

A barangay official, Emily once helped police identify drug suspects for the house-to-house tokhang program.

She thought tokhang would help get addicts and users to treatment. Instead, law enforcers and “vigilantes” cut a bloody swathe through Barangay Bagong Silang in Caloocan City. 
“The police are just part of the problem,” she stresed. “The biggest problem is Duterte and Congress and that department of injustice.”

Soriano warned that the High Court now stands at the edge of a cliff.

“Kapag napatalsik nila si CJ, solo na ni Duterte ang kapangyarihan,” Soriano warned. “Tuluyan nang mamatay ang hustisya sa ating bansa.” (Once they oust the CJ, Duterte would be in full control of all branches of government. That will be the death of justice in our country.”)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.