Thursday, March 18, 2004

`Thief and dictator’

So sue me. I’ve been using the words dictator and tyrant for as long as I can remember.

``Mrs. Marcos wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to rule that Ferdinand Marcos is not a dictator. She wants the (DOJ) to rule that Ferdinand Marcos is not a thief. Since Mrs. Marcos cannot change history, she wants the (DOJ) to do it for her.’’

This is want Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) commissioner Ruben Carranza, through his lawyers from Arroyo Chua Caedo Law Office, said in his scathing counter-affidavit after Imelda Marcos filed a libel suit against him and several journalists from a newspaper that published his statements.

Well, the DOJ did precisely that, Carranza’s lawyer William Chua said, when the DOJ through the Makati prosecutor’s office, charged Carranza et al with libel. An arrest order is to be expected, Chua added.

Last Sunday we came out with a news story on how calling deposed former president Ferdinand Marcos ``a thief and a dictator’’ could get you in trouble. The present government could charge you in court and have you arrested.

Party list representative Crispin Beltran promptly sent his reaction saying: ``Who’s afraid of libel and the Marcoses? Marcos was a thief, a dictator and a traitor to the Filipino people.’’

Beltran is saying, ``Try me.’’ So he goes: ``Thief, dictator, butcher of civilians, traitor to the Filipino people. If I had a wider and bigger vocabulary, I would be able to describe the late dictator Fedinand E. Marcos in more ways.

Beltran, a former political prisoner and labor leader, said the courts cannot go against Philippine history and deny the reasons why Marcos continues to be denounced as ``a plunderer and a dictator.’’ Eighteen years after his overthrow, Marcos victims are still waiting for justice, Beltran’s statement said. During commemorations for victims, the crimes of Marcos, his cronies, henchmen and heirs are constantly recalled and denounced, he added.

``We didn’t fear Marcos when he was still alive, we risked life and limb, why on earth should we be afraid of being sued for libel?

``Marcos cronies and his heirs including the incorrigible and shameless Imelda have yet to get their comeuppance. It’s appalling and outrageous that Imelda remains free to peddle her lies and illusions about her husband when together they plundered this country (and) all but destroyed the civil and human rights of the Filipino.

``Marcos was a thief, a butcher and a dictator, and no court in the land has the right to sanction or punish anyone who believes this and declares it publicly.’’

Makati Assistant City Prosecutor Carlos M. Flores, with the approval of city prosecutors Imelda Saulog and Feliciano Aspi, has filed libel charges against Carranza, Today editors Lourdes Molina-Fernandez and Dionisio Pelayo and reporter Estrella Torres.

Today publisher Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. who was originally included in the complaint filed by Marcos widow Imelda R. Marcos was not included in the resolution. Locsin is a Makati congressman. It’s the small fry who will fry, as far as the prosecutor is concerned. Recommended bail for each respondent is P10,000.

In an Aug. 26, 2003 article ``Marcoses hire Swiss lawyer to delay transfer of funds’’, Torres quoted Carranza as saying: ``You have a thief and a dictator, and here comes a lawyer (Foetish) saying they (referring to the Marcoses) have nothing to do with the Swiss money.’’

Wrote Torres: ``Swiss federal authorities have confirmed the existence of more substantial accounts of the estate of the late dictator Marcos besides the recovered US$683-million Swiss escrow funds now at the Philippine National Bank.’’

Said the imeldific in her complaint: ``The statements are very damaging to my husband’s memory… (it has) generated unjust contempt for my husband and my family, and has clearly blackened the memory of my late husband.’’

Prosecutor Flores upheld Mrs. Marcos’ complaint when he said ``Complainant, however, has correctly pointed out that the said respondent failed to present any evidence that Marcos was ever convicted as a thief and his innocence of the said charge stands until proven guilty in a court of law. Without such conviction, any reference to the late president as a thief may be considered malicious and therefore libelous.’’

Flores added that ``malice on the part of the journalists respondents is likewise presumed when they published the false statement of respondent Carranza.’’

But Carranza argued: ``The existence of the Marcos dictatorship is a matter of fact.’’ Therefore, references to Marcos as a thief and a dictator is not libelous.

Carranza added fuel by saying: ``The thievery that accompanied the imposition of martial is a matter of history. In fact, the enormity of the plunder landed Ferdinand Marcos in the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records as history’s greatest thief. Former senate president Jovito Salonga estimates the Marcos loot at around US$5 billion to US$10 billion. The PCGG itself has recovered some P25.534 billion from the sale of sequestered real property and shares…The government is still awaiting the privatization of another P30 billion or so of looted wealth.’’

Carranza stressed that the government that succeeded the Marcos regime was installed on the premise that Marcos ``stole the ballots intended for Corazon C. Aquino. Marcos not only looted the national treasury, he also stole the elections. That makes him a thief twice over….Various government bodies…acted on the postulate that the regime that Marcos imposed on the Philippines had been dictatorial and dishonest.’’