Sereno slams killings in imaginary dialogue with ‘Ka Pepe’ Diokno
If he were alive today, human-rights lawyer Jose Diokno would narrate to her the importance of due process and criticize how shortcuts have come at the cost of lives, according to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In her thinly-veiled speech attacking the government’s so-called war on drugs, Sereno imagined a dialogue with Diokno where he would stress the need for citizens and authorities to abide by the Constitution and uphold human rights.
In her keynote address on Thursday afternoon during the unveiling of the monument of the late freedom fighter “Ka Pepe” Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, Sereno said people still fear for their safety.
Sereno echoed the frustration of many who expected that peace and progress could be achieved once dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986.
The chief justice said the struggle to protect human rights persists today even after the Marcos regime ended more than thirty years ago.
She noted Filipinos continued to be mired in poverty and parents would still be scared every night for the safety of family members.
Sereno said every parent is praying that their child would always come home safe.
“Laganap pa rin ang mga dati nating problema. Matindi ang pangamba ng mga ina at ama tuwing lumalalim ang gabi ibinubulong na sana wag ang binatilyo namin (The same old problems remain prevalent. There still is that deep fear among mothers and fathers whenever darkness falls whispering in hopes that their son will be spared),” Sereno said.
Diokno, she said, would remind people to keep in mind the preamble of the Constitution—which reflects the aspiration for a “just and humane society”—and recall the power of unity.
“Enlighten them, that if only the Constitution is alive and sustained in the hearts of every citizen and public servant, there would be no worries,” Sereno said Diokno would say.
“Tell the OFW [Overseas Filipino Worker] mothers, if the authorities would only follow the rules, it would address the concerns of the youth who are accused of violating the law. That way, every mother and father would fear not when it gets dark,” Diokno, of Sereno’s imagination, would add.
“The Constitution is a sacred covenant of the citizens with one another, and the citizens with the government,” the imagined Diokno would say. “Every violation is a huge sin to the people.”
The imagined Diokno, Sereno said, would say the responsibility lies with every citizen to implore the government to implement the law.
There are many questions that ought to be raised: When has there been sustained action to make the police run after the criminals, especially the big fishes? Have the prosecutors been asked not to drop the cases against big-time syndicates? How many policemen, prosecutors and judges have been removed due to corruption? What steps have been taken to ensure big-time crime lords would cease their activities from within the prisons?
Sereno imagined Diokno would tell her: “Criminality should be suppressed and if lives have to be lost to do so, do what is necessary; but make sure everything is in accordance with the law.”
“Otherwise, it would not be long before the law-abiding would fall victim to powers that fear no God nor law,” the imagined Diokno would say.
Sereno said that if she asked about shortcuts to the long and tedious processes, Diokno would sadly remind her: “My child, can lives be restored?”
Sereno said the Constitution “remains the Judiciary’s North Star, guiding us as we, through our decisions, in our own way help steer the course of our nation’s history.”
The Chief Justice, among the subject of President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal attacks against officials heading entities that serve as traditional checks and balances, attended the unveiling of Diokno’s bronze-cast statue Thursday evening. /jpv
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