In the Philippines, stories of money changing hands from litigants to judges are not new. But here is a case where a judge himself confirmed how money was used to buy "justice" in a criminal case. He was the judge who signed the decision convicting the accused. According to this judge, he did not pocket any penny. Other people- among them a prosecutor and a lawyer said to be the bagman of another judge- divided the hefty bounty from the private complainant among themselves.
The judge says he wrote a decision acquitting the accused. Oh, by the way, when the decision was read, the judge was absent. It was purportedly the birthday of a loved one. It was another judge (someone identified with the lawyer I mentioned) who did. His Honor was surprised that what was read was a decision convicting the accused.
In fairness to His Honor, he still gave the accused the opportunity to read the draft decision for acquittal. He told the poor guy's mother, "If the money taken from the private complainant will be returned, the decision will be overturned." To make a long story short, the family of the accused did not entertain the innuendo. (Come on- he did not say, "If you return the money...") The accused is now in a Metro-Manila jail. Oh, yes, I should not have forgotten this: The judge also said to the accused's mother, "But you know what? I saved your son. If I acquitted him, he would have been killed by killers hired by the private complainant." I know you are confused. Did he not say earlier that what he prepared was a decision acquitting the accused? I am also confused why he was surprised that what was read was a decision for conviction. It bore his signature!
I repeat: His Honor says he received no penny. He even pointed to a crucifix in his chambers. OK, fine, whatever.
Categorically, I state that this is not my case, although I was the man's counsel in another litigation. I have not made any unequivocal assertion that the case was decided in Baguio City where I was based when the events I sketchily described happened. It is good to keep the public guessing. When an administrative case against the judge is filed and the story hits the papers, you will know who he is.
By the way, it is good to visit jailhouses. The inmates are great story-tellers. They will tell you how much justice costs or does not cost.
Anyway, from the story came inspiration to write some lines that I wanted to give to the accused. I never did but I hope it reaches him. I am glad though that I was able to visit him in jail before he was transferred to the National Penitentiary. I even succeeded in making a plea on his behalf to stay his transfer for a week or so. The sight of his baby girl and his wife shattered my heart into tiny splinters.
One day when he is free, perhaps he will read this poem. Don't we always say, "The truth sets free?"
Footnote to a Conviction
Echoes cringe from the audacity
To inter Justice in her own Hall
The sable robe has been imbrued
With the blood of innocence
Justice, orphaned, wanders
In the ebony of the nocturnal air
In the clarity of diurnal light
Banished from her own hall
By ghastly hoodlums in robes
Who claim to have touched
The sacred mind of God
A hollowed crucifix is suspended
From a wall in the chambers
Whose sterility is a chilling myth
Even to its two-faced occupant
The wall is straining to burst
With nefarious secrets caged
In the rhetoric of justice
The prisons are not deaf
They know Truth
Languishing within their walls
Let His Honor swim in his own filth
Let his stomach bulge from the bounty
Of his own depravity
One day, the Judge
Will be judged. chytdaytec/15june09
(I am reproducing in the Comments section some of the comments posted on Facebook.)