Petralba and Cuizon

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Friday, June 20, 2014


THESE are interesting times for two government officials that I know, Cebu Provincial Prosecutor Pepita Jane Petralba and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Ahmed Cuizon.

Petralba and the panel of prosecutors from her office are being criticized for inhibiting themselves from handling the case against Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 officials accused of killing lawyer Noel Archival and his companion. Cuizon dealt with the strike and rally launched by drivers and transport operators the other day.

I haven’t seen Petralba in years. I think the last time we bumped into each other was when I was still a beat reporter and she was with former congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez. But I knew her in my high school days in southwestern University because she is the older sister of my classmate Jerome, who is now residing abroad.

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The Petralbas (Jerome has an older brother, Felipe) were respected in school and were known for their being achievers. They were from a decent family, thus I don’t have any reason to question the provincial prosecutor’s integrity. The decision to inhibit from the Archival case should therefore be a product of honest intention and is not suspicious.

Having said that, I agree with controversial lawyer Vicente Mañalac in his letter published in the opinion section of Sun.Star Cebu that handling the case would have been the panel of prosecutors’ finest hour. Had they stood their ground, they would have shown that they possess a good amount of courage to take a difficult challenge.

Weeks after Archival was slain, it has become apparent what the intention of the concerned former HPG 7 officials and their legal counsel is to delay the prosecution of the case. Murder is a non-bailable offense and once the case reaches the court those officials will be incarcerated. With the delay, the accused will be free for a few more weeks.

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I wasn’t given the chance to organize protest actions in Cebu City during the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship in the ‘80s because I was based mainly in the countryside. But I participated in many of the rallies and other forms of mass protests launched at that time.

Leaders of the political opposition were the high-profile personalities in those activities. But activists had young fiery speakers that also figured prominently in the rallies. I remember two of them, Ronald Baquiano, who is now a lawyer, and Ahmed Cuizon.

I recall this because of the drivers’ strike and rally the other day to protest the increase of the penalties and fines for traffic and other related violations. The activity was organized by local members of the militant group, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

What I find interesting there is that Cuizon had said that he may have to require operators who allowed their drivers to cancel their trips to explain to his office why their franchises won’t be suspended or cancelled.

Of course, the LTFRB has been issuing similar statements in previous transport strikes. What seems unique to me is the knowledge that the LTFRB head used to straddle the other side of the fence. He can therefore anticipate the justification for such acts: the “exercise of the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Times, indeed, change. The truism is that the old eventually gives way to the new; or to put it differently, old activists sometimes become part of the establishment that new militants are battling.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 21, 2014.

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