Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Upsilon Sigma Phi's statement on PGMA's clemency for Cochise's Murderer

Joint Statement of the U.P. Upsilon Sigma Phi and Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni Association, Inc.

We, the members of the U.P. Upsilon Sigma Phi and the Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni Association, Inc. condemn in the strongest possible terms the commutation of the sentence of Rodolfo “Rudy” Manalili, the murderer of our dear fraternity brother Ernesto “Cochise” Bernabe II and his girlfriend Ana Lourdes “Beebom” Castanos.

As law abiding citizens and taxpayers of this country, we are appalled at the utter disregard by Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the rule of law and our time-honored system of justice.

Manalili and those convicted with him – Roberto Lising, Robin Manga, Enrico Dizon and Filemon Garcia slaughtered Cochise as if he were an animal, and then raped and slaughtered Beebom as well. Cutting short Manalili’s double life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of Cochise and Beebom will allow him to roam the streets within the next 3 years, thus exposing to serious danger the lives of the witnesses who testified against him.

The decision penned by then Quezon City trial judge Tirso Velasco stated that the crime Manalili et al committed was so heinous that he (Velasco) would have sentenced them to death had the death penalty been in place at that time. To the relatives of Cochise and Beebom, and to the public at large, the double life sentence was lean enough. Comes now President Arroyo who, probably having been misled by officials of the Board of Pardons and Parole, lessens the penalty to a ridiculous pittance of time in prison.

Based on the presidential prerogative, which we believe was grossly abused, Manalili may be out in 3-8 years time, too soon for those who testified against him or had anything to do with his prosecution. Was it because Manalili is from Pampanga, where President Arroyo hails? Was it because Manalili’s family is moneyed and the 2010 elections are near? Is the commutation of Manalili’s sentence connected with the commutations of the sentences of other rich heinous crime convicts like Claudio Teehankee, Jr. or wealthy child rapist Romeo Jalosjos? Who will the President free next – Mayor Sanchez?

We therefore appeal to President Arroyo to reconsider this travesty of justice. Setting free criminals like Manalili and his ilk sends a chilling message to law abiding citizens of this country – we can never feel safe – and gives hope to the criminals of this country – go ahead, commit a heinous crime, and get away with it. But if you do get caught – don’t worry… you can always get executive clemency for as long as you know people in the Board of Pardons and Parole and Malacanang.

Julian Rodrigo A. dela Cruz
Illustrious Fellow, U.P. Upsilon Sigma Phi (Diliman)

Jupiter Pante P. Nunez
Illustrious Fellow, U.P. Upsilon Sigma Phi (Los Banos)

Jacinto S. Puno
President, Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni Association, Inc.

Noel Cruz
President, Upsilon Sigma Phi - North America

Letter to the Editor
Speaking in Tongues

Early this week, news broke on the pardon granted by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Rodolfo M. Manalili who masterminded the abduction and murder of Ernesto “Cochise” Bernabe II and Ana Lourdes “Beebom” Castanos in April 25, 1990.

In a year’s time, we would be commemorating the abduction, rape and murder of these two young and promising students and future leaders our nation will never have. After creating a maelstrom that saw the enactment of the death penalty and the creation of the witness protection program brought about by public outrage and condemnation of this crime, our President, in one stroke of her mighty pen appends closure to Cochise and Beebom’s deaths by rewarding the killers and re-opening the yet unhealed wounds it has brought to Bernabe’s and Castanos’ families, friends and colleagues.

Because Press Secretary Cerge Remonde is aware of the utter heinousness of Manalili’s crime, he hides under the oft repeated chorus that the recent pardons is yet just another part of the ministerial duties of the President. That murderers, rapists, and grafters are freed after spending time for their crimes while alleviated by credible good behaviour is purely hogwash. Nothing can be more revolting when our officials coax our anger with arrogance treating us like children. We are even led to the self induced refrain that these actions are part of the corrective nature of the modern penal system. In short, don’t blame the President, she was just doing her job.

But our beef is not on forgiveness and on the Board of Pardons and Parole. Our anger stems from the transactional politics of this administration. The common adherence to law and order is thrown at the waste bin to accommodate patronage and political accommodation. The President fails to realize that above-all the wheeling and dealing in the Palace, she is expected to raise the bar of presidential action and in this case, her application of her power to grant pardons.

We have and will continue to support the Constitution and the laws of this Republic. We have done so and continue to do so in the ninety decades of our existence. But what we abhor is the wanton capitulation of this Administration to interest groups or individuals exposing the lack of political will to enforce judicial decisions creating a shadow of doubt as to how this government will fight corruption and lawlessness when high profile and financially endowed murderers, rapists, thieves and plunderers are granted pardon and clemency at the beck of presidential prerogative.

We are aware that Arroyo’s record of pardoning and granting executive clemency to many prisoners run into the hundreds if not thousands by this time. But we reckon that such actions to release and award freedom to old, sickly convicts with deteriorating health conditions will be the same action of any other president. To argue here that the president chooses neither from power nor from lack of it is misleading, if not downright pretentious. And because the decision to grant pardons and clemency have been tainted , what we hear is the “process” rhetoric.

Why then would we not think that this government is biased for the privileged few and not for all when the President pardons the likes of Jaime Ponce de Leon, convicted of 27 counts of graft and sentenced to 203 years in prison but never saw even the mere shadow of his prison cell because he was pardoned on the day he was to serve his sentence. We have the bungled initial release and pardon of convicted rapist Romeo Jalosjos, an ex-Congressman who had to be “re-captured” in hometown Zamboanga only to be finally freed after a few months re-detention. The other equally famous Claudio Teehankee, son of a former Chief Justice who lived a pampered life inside Bilibid who was released even before media got wind of the news. And of course, most obvious and sensational of all, the granting of executive clemency to former president Erap Estrada who was convicted of plunder, more from being handed his sentence.

We are a nation of laws. We seek redress from the courts and we find its judgment the final arbiter of the gravity of one’s offense. Presidential pardon is a special privilege allocated to the President to use and exercise with utmost care and discretion. It is neither a magic wand nor a “free-pass” granted at whim. The Board of Pardons and Parole is a commendable government agency whose goal is to provide a venue for relief and executive action for humanitarian reasons. Its recommendations must not be the sole basis for judgment of pardons and clemency. Just like any other democratic process, the flip side of the coin must also be presented. The parties aggrieved must be reached and their assent secured.

We believe that Rodolfo M. Manalili deserves to serve his full sentence. The lives of Cochise and Beebom can at the very least be honored by making those responsible for their deaths serve their full sentence. We deplore the official statement that the pardon was an exercise in process and that the President’s signature is merely ministerial. We condemn the inclusion and even the mere allusion of “a changed man” as a primary basis for exacting pardons and the process used to bear these fruits. The serving of one’s sentence implicitly involves one’s repentance and remorse. No amount of good behaviour should be incorporated as a means to shorten one’s sentence for it depraves us of our own dignity and corrodes our trust and allegiance to our laws.

We ask the President to repeal the pardon and exact on Manalili and his cohorts that in the Philippines, crime does pay.

We also call on every decent and law-abiding Filipino to join our call.

For the memory of Cochise and Beebom, we remain steadfast.

For the Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni Association (USPAA):
Eliseo M. Ilano, Chairman
Jacinto S. Puno, President

For the Upsilon Sigma Phi Los Banos Alumni Association (USPLBAA):
Arbie Bisenio, Chairman

For the Upsilon Sigma Phi North America (USPNA):
Noel Cruz, President

For the Upsilon Sigma Phi Resident Chapters:
Julian Rodrigo A. dela Cruz, Illustrious Fellow (Diliman)
Jupiter Pante P. Nunez, Illustrious Fellow (Los Banos)