Thursday, August 1, 2019

A conjuring

There was a movie titled “The Conjuring” that had paranormal investigators and demonologists delving into strange phenomena and other events that bordered on the macabre. A horror movie, in other words.
The recent spate of killings in Negros Oriental (at least 14 at last count) is one such horror movie playing out in real life. One of the victims is lawyer Anthony Trinidad, brother of former Inquirer reporter Andrea Trinidad.

And just as chilling, if not terrifying, is the series of cases conjured up and filed against persons daring to speak out against, or even just constructively criticize or remind, the Duterte administration about excesses particularly in the human rights department.
Creepy and unnerving, they feed on people’s primal fears that fester when the street lights are dim and with the roar of motorcycles with masked men riding in tandem.

Sutokil, not as the Visayans say of their favorite repast, but of the guns-for-hire on wheels who leave pools of blood as they speed away.
To conjure up means “to summon into action or bring into existence, often as if by magic.” To invoke, call forth, put forward, arouse, evoke, stir, raise. The word itself conjures up images of something unprecedented, surprising, as in “What?” In Pinoy textspeak, “Anyare?”

Take the case of Sister Elenita Belardo of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, chair of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Sister Emma Cupin of the Missionary Sisters of Mary and coordinator of RMP-North Mindanao.

On May 6, RMP, along with Gabriela and Karapatan, filed a petition for writs of amparo and habeas data with the Supreme Court. The writ of amparo has to do with human rights violations and seeking protection for human rights defenders.
The petition partly said: “Petitioners’ rights to life, liberty and security are being violated and continue to be violated. This petition invokes the jurisdiction and power of this Honorable Court to issue these protective writs in favor of Petitioners who are constantly threatened and harassed, red-tagged and maliciously terrorist-labeled only because of their advocacies in various fields of human rights work…
“Petitioners are likewise asking the Honorable Court to compel Respondents, under the writ of habeas data, to produce and, if necessary, to update and rectify, or to suppress and destroy, data and information filed in their possession, under their control or contained in their database that relate to or which concern Petitioners.”
The Supreme Court sent the petition to the Court of Appeals, which tossed it away. Another petition is being prepared.

Shortly after, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., one of the more than a dozen government officials named in the petition, filed a perjury case against the officers of RMP, nuns Belardo and Cupin, as well as the officers of the two other groups.
By the looks of it, the perjury case stems from the RMP petitioners supposedly not having read the truth of their allegations — and their status? Esperon  et al. did some explorations and checked RMP’s registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission and found it had been revoked at one time.
But RMP, Belardo says, had in fact reregistered and religiously filed reports thereafter, and there was never any notice that their reregistration was either denied or accepted.
That is the butas (hole) that led to the perjury case. Perjury has to do with lying.
As to the allegations that RMP funds help communist rebels, Belardo says the European Union office recently conducted an audit and found nothing irregular.
Therefore, the red-tagging and threats from government officials that necessitated the filing of a petition for a writ of amparo or protection for human rights defenders resulted instead in a backlash in the form of a perjury case.
But why perjury? Esperon, sir, you know better.
Today, at 9 a.m., the preliminary investigation on the perjury case will be conducted at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Quezon City.
Conjuring also fits the case filed against lawyers, church officials, bishops among them, and Vice President Leni Robredo — all accused of having coddled the “Bikoy” character who ratted on the alleged drug connections of President Duterte’s family but, expectedly, later changed his tune. Now coddled by government agents, he’s been singing since. #