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TURNING POINT: Moronic Justice

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 26 Sep) – In any transaction where something is to be obtained or availed off, the availing party is often required to fill up an application form where the information relevant to what is being sought is provided, including in some cases attachments or documentary evidences for those claimed in the application sheet. For instance when you apply for graduation in a university, aside from your personal information, you have to specify the degree sought, together with an evaluation sheet detailing all the mandated courses you have taken and passed, as well as a certification that you have submitted bound copies of your defended thesis to your college.

When you apply for membership with the GSIS, your application details, among others, your appointment status and your length of service in the government unit you are serving. Photo copies of the documents you claimed in the application form – your appointment paper and service record, need to be appended to the application sheet.

You will not be allowed to graduate and given a diploma if you cannot comply with all the requirements for graduation.

You cannot be a member of the GSIS if you cannot comply with all the requirements for membership as spelled out in the application form.

Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of the party that receives and processes the application to check the accuracy and completeness of the information provided in the application form.

An application once submitted becomes the property and at the disposal of the receiving party. Suffice it to say that the application document is for the receiving party to keep and secure because the information provided thereat is the primary basis in granting or denying the applicant of what is being sought.

For an applicant, the application form is no longer of much or any value at all once it left his hand and has served its purpose. Say, in our example, he was allowed to graduate and has received his diploma or he now is a regular member of the GSIS.

Proclamation 572 nullified the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on account of a certification from a certain Lt Col Thea Joan Andrade of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel JI that there is no available copy of his application for amnesty in the records.

On that basis President Duterte ordered the Senator’s immediate arrest by the PNP and the AFP. When his arrest order could not be implemented in the absence of valid warrant, the President backpedalled and ordered his minions to revive the dismissed cases of Sen. Trillanes at the Makati regional trial courts.

Come to think of it, is mere certification from a staff at the DND, who might not have even been involved in the processing of amnesty applications, a sufficient basis to nullify an amnesty granted by the President of the Republic and concurred by the two houses of Congress?

Anyway, the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 accepted as immutable truth the allegation of the President that indeed Trillanes has no application for the amnesty he was granted in as much as the Senator could not submit to the court any. Hence, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Since when does our justice system revert from the English to the Roman system of antiquity where the burden of proof in a judicial case lies in the accused and not in the accuser?

In our traditional English justice tradition, which the Makati court was supposed to uphold, the burden of proof lies in the accuser not in the accused. And the proof must not simply be alleged but must be proven in court. The court ought to have ordered the DND to produce the missing copy of the application form which was in its custody or to explain why it cannot produce, rather than demand it from the accused Trillanes.

What proof can the accusers of Sen. Trillanes present in court to support their allegation? None. In such case, the amnesty granted to Sen. Trillanes holds and is presumed valid from the beginning.

There could be one and thousand reasons why the DND cannot produce or locate the application form of Sen. Trillanes. After 7 years from the processing of said application, it may have moved from one hand or office to another and is already difficult to trace. Or, it was already physically disposed because its purpose has already been served: the Senator was already issued a Certificate of Amnesty. Another reason could be that the application form was deliberately lost or hidden so that Proclamation 752 can be promulgated to harass, torment and silence the irrepressible Duterte critic. It’s difficult to find something when those who are looking for it are the ones hiding it.

Sen. Trillanes could not also present a copy of his application form, if ever he bothered to have a copy of the same after the submission. At any rate he produced for the court testimonial affidavits from certain DND officials who processed his application that he indeed submitted application for the grant of amnesty. Moreover, he presented to the court a copy of his certificate of amnesty – the end result of his application, which the court apparently did not bother to give a glance.

Sen. Trillanes got what he applied for – the certificate of amnesty which evidences the perfection of the Proclamation of Amnesty affecting his person. Is this certificate of less probative value vis the DND certification on his missing application form?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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