Decent home for the courts

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014


A FRIEND swears that the following really happened:

A judge was presiding over the court inside a tent in the Capitol compound. For privacy and in order to shield them from the noise outside, the judge had the tent’s tarpaulin walls/curtains drawn close. When the hearing was underway, everyone comported himself in a manner that would give the proceedings solemnity despite the difficult conditions.

Suddenly a head peered through the parted tarpaulin. “Buwad mo diha,” said the unsuspecting fish vendor.

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Most judges stationed in Cebu City have been regularly hearing cases after a more than two-month-hiatus imposed by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that rendered unsafe the Palace of Justice. But the situation is far from normal. Neither is it conducive to the administration of justice.

The courts need to have a safe, decent and more or less permanent home. That is the Quimonda IT Center, according to the Supreme Court, but a number of court employees do not agree reportedly because they fear for their safety. Not only did the Quimonda sustain cracks during the earthquake, they say, its location renders court personnel, lawyers and litigants vulnerable to snatchers and other criminal elements.

The Quimonda is in the north reclamation area near the budget hotel, Sugbutel. I was there last week on official business with the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) which holds office on the building’s second floor.

I did not see any more cracks; they probably patched them up. Work is ongoing in anticipation of the judiciary’s relocating there, according to Jojo Cabatingan, Marina 7’s chief legal counsel.

The issue seems to be pretty much settled then, especially after the visit of officials from the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice the other day. If it’s any assurance to the fearful court employees, none of the Sugbutel employees has been mugged.

I also hold office in the pier and I’m happy to say that it is as peaceful here as it is in the Capitol area. And I haven’t had any itinerant vendor barging in, hawking dried fish.

***

Sen. Bong Revilla’s privilege speech last Monday followed the same pattern as that of his fellow actor, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who delivered his speech last year. The only difference is that Revilla brought his own father, also a former senator, for added effect.

Like Estrada, Revilla wanted it known that other high government officials had their own share of impropriety, if not crimes. Granted, but does that by itself make him any less guilty of the offense of plunder that he has been charged with?

Revilla is being accused of receiving a total of P224.51 million in rebates from Janet Napoles over a period of five years. This is broken down as follows, according to Rappler: P10 million in 2006, P61 million in 2007, P80 million in 2008, P40 million in 2009 and P33.51 million in 2010.

Are these allegations true? That was what we waited for him to discuss thoroughly. But he said nothing beyond the claim that his signatures were forged. On that score, hadn’t he written the Commission on Audit to say that the signatures in the liquidation reports appear to be his?

Between 2006 and 2010, Revilla must have received a total of P1 billion pork barrel funds because senators are entitled to P200 million per year.

Where did this P1 billion pork go? Is it true that they went to foundations organized by Napoles? If so, how did these foundations use the money?

He avoided answering these questions in his privilege speech. Maybe, he’s just waiting for the appropriate time to give the answers in the appropriate forum. Let’s see.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 23, 2014.

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