YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE IN THE CRIME SCENE TO COMMIT A CRIME!
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
“The more things change, the more they are the same.”
- Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
CHICAGO (JGL) – ON JUNE 8, 1953, concurrent Philippine Secretary Oscar Tombo Castelo of the Departments of Justice and
Defense left Manila for Korea but before boarding the plane, he called his nephew, Augusto Melencio, who was also agent of the Defense Department, and his personal bodyguard Bienvenido “Ben Ulo” Mendoza to say, "Huwag lang hindi ninyo mapatay si (Manuel P.) Monroy bago ako dumating" (Don't fail to kill Monroy before my return) to which Ben Ulo replied, "Huwag kang mag-alala, halos patay na siya" (Don't you worry, he is as good as dead.)
On the night of June 15, 1953, while Secretary Castelo was in Korea, Ben Ulo and eight other henchmen carried out the murder conspiracy of Monroy who was playing “mahjong” with his wife and two others inside No. 18-C Gamboa Apartments in David St. Pasay City.
P/SUPT. MARVIN MARCOS
While the murder case was pending, Castelo went to the United States, but before his departure, he told Ben Ulo and Melencio, “Ben, ang mga bata, ikaw na ang bahala sa kanila. Siguruhin mo lang na walang magsasalita at delikado tayo” (Ben, take care of the boys, be sure nobody talks as we would be in danger).
A few weeks later, Florentino “Scarface” Suarez, the “potential squealer was killed mysteriously; and what a coincidence – while Castelo was abroad again,” according to a per curiam decision of the majority decision of the Philippine Supreme Court, which convicted Castelo and seven others of “murder – qualified by premeditation -- beyond reasonable doubt. There are aggravating circumstances, like nighttime, aid of armed men, etc.; but for lack of sufficient votes, they are all sentenced to life-imprisonment and to indemnify the heirs of Monroy, jointly and severally, in the sum of six thousand pesos (P6,000.00), and to pay the costs. So ordered.”
CAN HARASS & INTIMIDATE WITNESSES
This Supreme Court decision handed down in 1964 when text messaging was decades away from popular use contradicts squarely the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte (PPRD) that because police Superintendent Marvin Marcos was not in the crime murder scene, Marcos’ police power should be restored back to him, sending chills down the spines of witnesses and investigators of his alleged crimes!
And if Mr. Marcos were to use his absence in the crime scene as an alibi to extricate himself from homicide conviction, he would need to convince the current Supreme Court to overturn the near-unanimous landmark case of People of the Philippines v. Castelo et al. [G.R. No. L-10774. May 30, 1964, 9 Justices voted in favor, 2 Justices took no part in voting] to depart from its ruling that the act of one is the act of all when there is "interlocking confessions" of the accused even if the mastermind or the conspirator were thousands of miles away from the crime scene! Castelo was not even included in the original information filed by his own fiscal (Fiscal Andres Reyes) and a principal witness (Rogelio Robles) had recanted his direct testimony linking Castelo to the conspiracy! Because the fiscal was under Castelo, the Supreme Court gave more credence to two women stenographers who witnessed co-accused Augusto Melencio's confession that was challenged than the sworn statements administered by other witnesses before the fiscal!
SEN. RICHARD GORDON (center) with Joseph G. Lariosa (right). (JGL Photo)
There is a semblance of similarity between the Castelo's case and the Marcos' case in that shortly after Marcos was arrested, President Duterte announced that if the National Bureau of Investigation found that the killing of former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa was a "rubout" (murder), he will not believe the NBI but will believe more the Philippine National Police, whom he ordered to "kill drug personalities who resist arrest during operations." But how can jail inmates resist inside a jail? Both the NBI, which is under DOJ, and the PNP, are agencies under the President. Because of conflicting resolutions of the case, the President should have created an independent fact-finding commission like the Agrava Commission or a better version!
The Philippine Senate was not pleased either when the Department of Justice under Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II downgraded its recommendation from murder to homicide against Marcos and 18 others, who carried out the murder of Espinosa and his cellmate inside the jail. The killing was attended by such aggravating circumstances as offenders using their public position and abuse of confidence, the crime committed in the night time and in a band, the crime committed with aid of armed police men who ensure or afford impunity, used superior strength or used or employed means to weaken the defense and the act committed with treachery.
CHECK & BALANCE
In order to check the power of the executive branch or so that any future recommendation by a Senate panel will stick, the Senate may introduce a bill that will prevent any investigating agency, including such Constitutional bodies as Ombudsman, or the Department of Justice, from altering its findings for probable cause after a Senate panel had conducted an investigation on a certain case and had made a recommendation so that they would not be wasting their time, talents, resources and taxpayers’ money!
Any violation of the new legislation can be grounds for removal from office either by impeachment if committed by Ombudsman or by filing of graft charges if committed by the Secretary of the Department of Justice or his subalterns.
The Senate Committee on Justice chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon concluded that the police involved in the operation committed obstruction of justice when the police operatives tried to conceal their involvement in the narcotics trade of Espinosa. The killing was attended by premeditation and abuse of authority.
SECRETARY OF JUSTICE VITALIANO AGUIRRE II (left) with his friend, Marlon L. Pecson (JGL Photo by MARLON L. PECSON)
Actually, the Senate, if it wants to tell President Duterte to stay in line, can initiate impeachment proceedings against the President for culpable violation of the Constitution. The articles of impeachment can say that the President had abused his discretion after the Senate report criticized President Duterte for “micromanaging” the police as it said that the deaths of Espinoza and inmate Raul Yap could have been prevented had the order of Philippine National Police Chief Ronald De la Rosa to relieve the police officers were not rescinded by the President.
LAWS SHOULD BE FAITHFULLY EXECUTED
Under the Article VII of the Philippine Constitution, Sec. 5, before they enter on the execution of their office, the President and the Vice President, take the following oath or affirmation:
“I do solemnly swear or [affirm] that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President [or Vice President] or Acting President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So, help me God.”
By countermanding De La Rosa’s order, President Duterte also violated Sec. 17 of the same Article that says, “The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed.”
“It is also worth noting that P/Supt. (Marvin) Marcos and his men from CIDG-8 could have been prevented from doing their dastardly deed as they had been relieved by PNP Chief De la Rosa prior to November 05, 2016. Yet, as borne by the record and the testimony of the PNP Chief, his order was rescinded and PSupt. Marcos’ team was reinstated by President Duterte,” said the report.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate panel on public order, said that Duterte’s order basically disregarded the “conspiracy angle,” upheld in the Castelo ruling, that the Senate panels discovered.
SEN. PANFILO M. LACSON
It is also interesting to note that the Castelo case had originated from the Senate when then Sen. Claro M. Recto, the grandfather of incumbent Sen. Ralph Recto accused Castelo with bribery and extortion as a judge of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila. A month later, Senator Recto found himself defendant in a bigamy case in the CFI of Bulacan.
Recto countered with a disbarment charge, and the feud between them became a cause c'ele'bre. Recto’s charges were investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, with Monroy as Recto’s star witness to the chagrin of Castelo and Ben Ulo, who had exerted efforts to prevent Monroy from testifying.
Moreover, Monroy was likely to be again a witness in the disbarment proceedings - instituted by Recto - before the Supreme Court, which rested on the same charge of bribery.
Another political trivia on this case: Castelo’s five other co-accused in the case included his mistress, Adelaida Reyes and Dr. Herminia Castelo-Sotto, mother of incumbent Sen. Vicente “Tito” Castelo Sotto III, who were both acquitted for lack of evidence. Sen. Sotto’s father is Marcelino Antonio Ojeda Sotto. Sotto’s paternal grandfather and namesake was former Sen. Vicente Sotto (1877-1950).