He should be impeached for betraying the nation
COMMISSION on Human Rights chair Jose Luis (“Chito’) Gascon, who was the Liberal Party’s director general, is one of our highest-paid state government officials. We taxpayers give him P3 million a year, which puts him among the one-half of one percent of Filipinos, including those in the private sector, making at least that much.
Yet he shamelessly paints the blackest picture of the country and of President Duterte, spewing brazen lies in international forums to portray the country as one in which “tens of thousands of Filipinos are being murdered by our government,” and that those opposing the president are persecuted.
I nearly fell off my seat when in a speech at the so-called Oslo Freedom Forum in New York (run by the Human Rights Watch based there), he claimed that the Duterte administration — in just another indication that it is an authoritarian regime silencing its critics — had forced Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to resign. (The speech was melodramatically titled “Death and the Democratic Deficit in Duterte’s Drug War,” so cheaply using alliteration in the hope that it sticks in his audience’s mind.)
Morales was still in office when Gascon made his speech on May 29. If he doesn’t believe me he could call her up now to check if she’s still there. She in fact, for some reason, has recently been in a frenzy of activity, ordering charges to be filed against officials of the past regime for corruption — including President Aquino, but on a very minor charge.
I cannot believe Gascon doesn’t know that Morales is stepping down on July 26 because her seven-year term, mandated by the Constitution, ends on that date.
Duterte’s communication people should be put on high alert. If the Supreme Court as Presidential Electoral Tribunal rules, as I am convinced they would, that Vice President Leni Robredo cheated her way to the post and should be ousted, Gascon will shriek to the world that Duterte removed her from the nation’s second most powerful post.
Gascon put out that shameless canard about Morales as part of his devious tack to portray Duterte as not just your ordinary authoritarian but a cowardly misogynist picking on “strong independent women who oppose him.”
First in his list — illustrated in a two-story projection behind him — is Aquino’s justice secretary and now senator Leila de Lima, who Gascon claims was “arrested and put in jail,” as if armed men one night just barged into her home and took her to a military camp.
Of course, Gascon omitted the crucial facts: that de Lima has been charged for colluding with drug lords, allowing them to use the national prison as their command center, and receiving hundreds of millions of pesos in bribe money. Not just one but three charges were filed by various entities, including the private-sector Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, in three branches of the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa (where the penitentiary is). The court ordered her arrest and detention. Of course, Gascon didn’t mention the fact that the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, ruled en banc that de Lima’s arrest and detention was legal.
Third in Gascon’s list of women persecuted by Duterte is Lourdes Sereno, who he claimed the “authoritarian removed from office.” Of course Gascon didn’t mention that it was her colleagues in the Supreme Court who decided that Sereno was a fake chief justice, since she failed to meet the minimum requirements for the post—even that for psychological health—and must be removed for them to be loyal to the Constitution.
Last in Gascon’s list of “women persecuted by Gascon” is Maria Ressa, editor of the online news outfit Rappler who Gascon claims was “de-registered and facing tax evasion.” Of course Gascon didn’t mention that it was the firm that set up Rappler, in which Ressa is just one of the minority shareholders, that was “de-registered” by the Securities and Exchange Commission for violating the Constitution by taking in foreign funds.
Correct that: Despite Gascon’s claim that we have an authoritarian regime, Rappler is still operating, having appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. Rappler earned about P150 million in the sale of its shares to American entities. Gascon is saying the Bureau of Internal Revenue shouldn’t investigate that for tax evasion?
But his lies about this “persecuted women” are just for starters. He claimed in his speech that the International Criminal Court has started an investigation “into the tens of thousands of people that have been murdered by our government in its war against drugs.”
Tens of thousands of Filipinos? I have in several columns have indisputably refuted grave exaggerations on casualties in the war vs drugs started by Rappler, and disseminated by other anti-Duterte groups. The figure reported by an auditing group of the Philippine National Police is that 4,000 were killed by police in operations against “drug personalities” because they fought back, since Duterte started his campaign up to June this year.
The PNP report indeed pointed out that there was an additional 2,734 homicides that it is investigating as drug-related, but to conclude that this was perpetrated by the police and not by drug pushers and drug lords themselves is so grossly unfair.
Gascon claimed that the “ICC is investigating the killings” to give credence to his allegation of “tens of thousands of Filipinos murdered.”
But this again is another lie. The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda merely initiated a “preliminary examination” — a routine chore it does whenever it receives a complaint. As explained by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, who had been very supportive of the Yellow Regime, Bensouda (probably in two years) will have to get the approval of a higher body called the Pre-Trial Chamber to undertake the kind of investigation Gascon is claiming.
What is so despicable about Gascon’s presentation, as it is so cheaply appeals to the emotions of his foreign audience, is that he uses as his background an enormous projection of that once-famous July 2016 photo of one Michael Sharon’s dead body cradled in the arms of his partner in that classic “Pieta” pose. The Philippine Daily Inquirer photo became a viral poster by anti-Duterte groups to portray the president as a merciless killer.
However, after more than a year of police investigation—the length of time it took pointing to the fact that it wasn’t merely a cover-up—it was conclusively proven in October 2017 that Siaron wasn’t killed by police or anti-drug vigilantes but by drug-ring criminals, with the gunman Nesty Santiago identified without the shadow of a doubt. Neither the PDI nor any other anti-Duterte group, not even the Commission on Human Rights, contested that police conclusion. The PDI claimed that it never really alleged that he was killed by the police.
It is impossible for Gascon not to have known about this as he mobilized a lot of his staff to investigate the case. Yet sickeningly, he presents this photo to tug at his Western audience’s hearts so they’d believe that Duterte is a ruthless killer.
Gascon as a citizen is of course entitled to his own opinions, even if these are intended to damage Duterte’s legitimacy. This is in line with the Yellows and Liberal Party’s hope that at best, the president would be forced out of office (as they tried unsuccessfully to do in the case of President Arroyo) or at worse, be so unpopular that the opposition would win the next presidential elections (as they did in Arroyo’s case),
But he heads a government body, the Commission on Human Rights, designed by the Constitution to be independent from politics so it could be a credible and effective check against the state’s abuses. The CHR has turned out to be another of the many institutions Aquino had damaged, turning it into a demolition crew against Duterte.
Aquino appointed Gascon, as well as its four other members who each get government salaries of P2.5 million, in June 2015, and who therefore will step down only in 2022. Other than Gascon, two of them are die-hard Yellow cadres: Roberto Cadiz, who was a private prosecutor (persecutor?) in the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom Aquino moved heaven and earth to boot out, and Leah Armamento, a former justice undersecretary who was de Lima’s right hand woman.
This country can’t have another four years with Gascon using taxpayers’ money to malign this nation.
If he is convinced that Duterte has committed human rights abuses, he should focus on the work of investigating these and filing charges in court, against at least the actual perpetrators so he would be in effect disarming him from undertaking further alleged crimes.
Gascon can’t use his government post and our money for the Yellow strategy that worked in the case of Marcos, which is to get the US to help topple Duterte by painting him as an authoritarian and a human-rights abuser. He should be ashamed to use taxpayers’ money to advance the Yellows’ agenda.
Gascon should be impeached for betrayal of the public trust and the high crime of spreading lies against the country. There is I presume a special place in hell for such a hypocrite and a liar who very falsely portrays us as a nation of cowards refusing to oppose an abusive dictatorship, with only him and his Yellow Cultists as the brave heroes doing so.