Human Rights

And the Winner for the Worst Performance in a Courtroom is…

Yesterday’s hearing on the Batasan 6’s motion to quash the amended information filed by the Department of Justice both affirmed my faith in the legal profession and confirmed my worst fears regarding people working in the current government.

Supporters of the beleaguered militant congresspersons were already picketing the Makati RTC when I arrived. After taking a few photos of the scene, I went on and proceeded to the sala of Branch 137 presided by Jenny Lind Aldecoa-Delorino and was met by the sweltering heat of the packed courtroom. An airconditioning unit strategically placed beside the good judge hardly made the difference as frantically swiveling electric fans sought to diminish the heat.

Naturally, the Batasan 6 supporters were there, perhaps, both for moral support and for intimidation purposes.  Atty. Romeo Capulong, counsel for the congresspersons, painstakingly discussed the contentious issues surrounding the amended information. After which, other lawyers to the several accused (there were 46 of them, supposedly conspiring against the Arroyo government) proceeded to register their objections, one by one, to the DOJ position. Especially passionate were the manifestations of Capulong, Teodoro Teh, (lawyer to 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan), Harry Roque (lawyer to Rep. Teddy Casiño), and Edre Olalia (lawyer to Nathanael Santiago and Rey Claro Casambre). Also present to speak for the defense were equally compelling and competent defense lawyers Alnie Foja (for Rep. Liza Maza), Jobert Pahilga (for Rep. Rafael Mariano), FLAG’s Jose Manuel Diokno (for Vicente Ladlad) and some others whose names escape me now.

While the defense lawyers were speaking, Atty. Emmanuel Velasco, DOJ’s much vaunted senior state prosecutor, excused himself momentarily from the courtroom, proceeding to the adjacent comfort room. I was standing at the back of the room; I swear I heard Velasco coughing and puking his guts out in the CR. Upon exiting the john, Velasco returned to the courtroom, drank half the contents of his bottled water and sat beside Harry Roque. (Now, normally, opposing counsels sit across each other like they do in John Grisham novels. However, being in a third world country affords much less privilege for trial lawyers.)

Personally, Velasco’s getting the courtroom jitters was quite understandable. After all, it’s not everyday that a state prosecutor faces a battery of reputable human rights lawyers (actually, half the entire population of HR lawyers in the country) as adversary. Normally, in cases of supposed rights abuses, a lone human rights lawyer would be present amid a battery of state prosecutors out to prove the benevolence of government toward dissenters.

Anyway, when it was Velasco’s turn, the proceedings unexpectedly took a comedic turn. There, in the cramped, sweltering room, Velasco forever distinguished himself by performing what I’m sure will soon be proclaimed as one of the most ridiculous courtroom acts in Philippine legal history. When it was his turn, he stood up, and instead of facing the judge, faced the audience as lawyers do in American movies.

“Once, there was this young man…,” began his declamation, about a kid who was a member of the Kabataang Makabayan during the ’80s. This kid, Velasco related, once attended a rally and was asked by his comrades to bring with him an icepick. His comrades told the kid to say that the deadly weapon was for putting holes in streamers if caught by the police. But the kid, Velasco said, refused to lie and instead told his comrades that he would tell the police that the icepick was really for self-defense.

“And that young man,” declared Velasco, “was this representation.”

By this time, many in the audience could no longer suppress their chuckles. The judge herself wore a half-smile, visibly amused with the prosecutor’s theatrics. The moral of the story, Velasco declared, is that leftists should be proud of their actions, if they truly believe in the principles they attest to. Unlike the Batasan 5 and Atty. Capulong, Velasco said he is still proud of having been a KM member. He even has a kid named after Karl Marx who, he generously shared, “is now in the hospital with a heart problem.”

By then, even the judge was coyly grinning. As for the audience, the court deputy had to hush us throughout the rest of the declamation. Beside the fact that he absolutely failed to refute any argument raised by the battery of lawyers, Velasco spoke terribly ungrammatical English, and pronounced CPP as “Si-Fi-Fi” to boot. To make things worse, he made hand gestures not unlike what one sees in high school oratorical contests. He was so into the gestures that at one point, he accidentally hit the head his assistant with a karate chop.

It was so hilarious that from the moment Velasco opened his mouth I knew the amended complaint would be thrown out. The judge was suppressing giggles half the time; I figured no judge with this keen sense of humor would fail to see the ridiculousness of the state’s case.

But more than her sense of humor, Judge Delorino must be commended for having fairly dispensed justice despite obvious pressure from the powers-that-be. Already, the DOJ has been hinting at filing motion for Delorino’s inhibition from the case. In the interet of justice, we must support this judge who (at the moment) rescued our waning faith in the judicial system.


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