Sunday July 22, 2018

Seares: Protests of innocence

TWO high-profile persons accused of major crimes have made protests of innocence, from blanket denial to specific arguments why they couldn’t be guilty.

At this stage they are only suspects as they are still being investigated:

■ Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, by the NBI and BIR, on allegations that some P1 billion of his wealth wasn’t reported in his SALN or net-worth statement. Allegations of his estranged wife Patricia who “stole” the documents from his files, have made the running story riveting.

■ Cebu businessman Peter Lim, by the Department of Justice, on the complaint that he had been trafficking shabu (crystal meth). The existence of so many people named Peter Lim in Cebu and the rest of the country has taken his case from the usual matrix of drug-dealing complaints.

Bautista’s stance

Both respondents use general denial but their specific arguments make for interesting study in this phase when they need to explain to the public.

Bautista’s posture, so far, is that of a husband victimized by his wife who, he alleged, not only left him for another man but the lovers also wanted to extort money from him.

A series of statements and disclosures from Bautista present the narrative of being cheated in his marriage and targeted by the couple for his wealth. He talked before co-workers at Comelec, saying he was prepared to lose his job but not his Comelec family, a bit of drama complete with a stifled sob.

His mother-in-law has taken his side. Lately, his older brother joined his defense with the story that he told Andres to kill himself if the charge of corruption were true and the Comelec chief said he was not corrupt and he believed him.

The wrong guy

The protest of Cebu’s Peter Lim is that he couldn’t be guilty as he was not the Peter Lim whom police and PDEA have in their list. “Not me, you’ve got the wrong guy.” The issue of identify should take precedence over the probe into the alleged drug offenses.

When DOJ subpoenaed Lim and he faced the media to express fear for his life, people thought the question of identity was already settled. Apparently not. At DOJ yesterday (Aug. 14), his lawyer Magilyn Loja said the Peter Lim named in the Aug. 2 Bureau of Immigration dossier as the Hong Kong passenger who arrived last June 27 at the Mactan airport was not her client. If they can’t pin down the real Peter Lim who’s in their drug list, how can they make the charge stick against this Peter Lim?

Tentative judgment

Protests of innocence during investigation provide glimpses of the defense that will be raised during trial. The stories regale the public, which, ready or not, makes tentative judgments on guilt or innocence even before the machinery of justice rolls.