Three Cebuanos-A A +A
Saturday, November 2, 2013
THE three underpin last week’s Court of Appeals decision that upheld Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’s order to fire 10 Navy personnel.
They were implicated in the 1995 death of an ensign who refused to load hot timber and drugs.,
Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr. penned the decision. Carpio Morales’s predecessors turned a blind eye to the evidence, it found. She rightly reversed the flawed dismissal of the charges.
The first Cebuano is the victim Navy ensign Philip Pestaño, 24. An Ateneo honor student, he graduated at the Philippine Military Academy. He served as cargomaster on “RPS Bacolod City.” In 1995, he refused to load 14,000 board feet of illegal logs, weapons, and shabu.
“Part of the cargo was a gift of then governor (Gerry Matba) to Admiral Pio Carranza.” “Orders from above” over-ruled Pestaño.
DENR certified the logs were inspected in Zamboanga, on Sept 25. Yet, the boat was already docked in Cavite then. The logs vanished but spurious clearances appeared.
In September, Pestano was shot in his cabin as the ship meandered on a bizzare hour-and-a-half trip from Cavite to dock at Roaxs Blvd. Normally, that trip takes 25 minutes. Logbook entries disappeared.
“Suicide,” ruled the Navy within 24 hours, sans investigation. Nonsense, objected Pestaño’s PMA classmates, who noted absence of powder burns.
“We in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi knew the facts after news of Pestaño’s murder broke” recalled Inquirer columnist Noralyn Mustoffa. “The Senate and the UN (findings)...amounted to nothing under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It had to take Carpio-Morales, an appointee of President Noynoy Aquino, to right something unjust.”
The second Cebuano was late Senate president and former Supreme Court chief justice Marcelo Fernan. He led the Senate committee on Armed Forces probe into Pestaño’s death. “Identify the persons who participated in the deliberate attempt to make it appear that Pestaño killed himself,”
Senate Report 800 said. The Fernan committee prodded the Military Ombudsman in January 1998 to crack down.
The third Cebuano ignored the Senate. Ombudsman Aniano Desierto directed the Military Ombudsman: Archive the Pestaño case as the evidence is "patchy." He spurned offer of testimony by seven of Pestaño’s classmates. Desierto’s record was so tainted the late senator Lorenzo Tañada refused to address him directly.
Pestaño’s parents, Felipe and Evelyn, gave up on knocking at Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’s door. “She has not agreed to see us.” “Ms. Gutierrez is an Aniano Desierto in skirts,” Inquirer said. She quit when the Lower House impeached her,
Pestaño’s parents sought UN help. In March 2011, the UN Commission on Human Rights wrote the Government: Despite denials by AFP, PNP and DOJ, Pestaño was not a suicide but the victim of homicide. Violation of Ensign Pestaño's right to life and to redress of grievance is "directly attributable to the State in party (Republic of the Philippines)."
“No one has been prosecuted for the crime--which after 15 years has been committed with impunity.” The Philippines should “undertake enforceable remedies....and inform UN “within 180 days.”
“Sixteen years and four months. That’s how long it has taken the death of Pestaño for what it has been all this time: murder,”
Inquirer said in a 2012 editorial. “Conviction remains a long way off But it offers a glimmer of hope that closure will grace this case.”
That decision has come---thanks to an Ombudsman with grit. "Tiene cojones." She has balls.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 03, 2013.