Politically aware Filipinos have learned to expect the worst from Raul Gonzalez. His statements and acts have become as much a part of the sorrows of existence as typhoons, dengue fever, malnutrition, injustice, poverty and putrid government.
But Gonzalez still manages to outrage. Among other reasons, he is so loyal to his Malacanang patron he will say and do anything to help keep her there. But there’s also his sense of humor. Most of the time it makes no sense, but isn’t humor either.
He thought he was being so funny he nearly choked when he advised former president Corazon Aquino to take care of her daughter Kris first. He made that remark when Mrs. Aquino asked Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign last year. No gentleman of the Old School he.
But Gonzalez’ devotion to Malacanang is no laughing matter. Gonzalez is Mrs. Arroyo’s legal bogeyman whose control over the (in)justice system in this madhouse assures its use in her behalf. Gonzalez is almost certainly part of the team that put together the policies curtailing free expression in 2005. He was also at the center of the repression that followed Proclamation 1017 last February, and he has made threatening statements about journalists’ being watched, charges being readied against them, and further arrests.
All these have been so evidently meant to terrorize critical media and other dissenters that Gonzalez’ undisguised glee over their chilling effect was as predicted. But his statements and acts on the matter of the four US Marines accused of raping a Filipina last November 1, 2005 should have been equally expected.
His being Secretary of Justice has not prevented Gonzalez from issuing statements that amount to–in the words of the one of the victim’s lawyers–“lawyering for the accused.”
Those statements range from declarations that the Philippines cannot have custody of the US soldiers because the government would have to provide them with amenities unavailable to Filipinos, to claims that “mob pressure” forced the DOJ to prosecute the four (out of six initially accused).
Gonzalez’ latest offering in behalf of the four is an order to downgrade the charges against three of them from principals to accessories, although it seems certain the three were present during the rape, and at the very least egged on the assault on the victim. A person may be accused of being an accessory to a crime only after it is committed. But Gonzalez was either absent in law school when that particular principle was taught, or has devised his own definition of “accessories”.
Gonzalez admits that three of the four accused were gleefully present while the fourth was raping the victim. He has implied that the Filipino driver of the van where the rape happened could be charged as an accomplice. The charge is a heavier offense penalized with 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The “accessories” charge penalizes offenders with 6 to 12 years’ imprisonment. The downgrading of the charge against the three US Marines thus implies that being merely present during the rape, as the van driver supposedly was, is a graver offense than cheering on the rapist.
What Gonzalez is doing is as obvious as his use of the sedition and inciting to sedition laws in behalf of Mrs. Arroyo. Obviously he’s trying to get the US soldiers off, via an acquittal if possible, but with lighter sentences if necessary. The question, however, is for what?
One can explain it away as one more indication of the colonial brain-rot that’s endemic in the bureaucracy in general and the Philippine political elite in particular. That’s likely to be a factor–consider Gonzalez’ statement last year that the Philippines did not want custody of the accused because they might have to be provided air-conditioning (because, after all, they’re Americans and not mere Filipinos). But there’s also a political context in Gonzalez’ more than obvious efforts to get those four exemplars of US manhood off.
That context is his boss Mrs. Arroyo’s effort to keep US support in behalf of her tainted rule.
From Dana Dillon of the US Heritage Foundation–a think tank that has the ear of George W. Bush and the Republican majority in the US Congress–comes the information that “Arroyo desperately wants a visit with President Bush to shore up her shaky political situation at home.” In a recent commentary, Dillon, who described Mrs. Arroyo in 2004 as “the weakest” among Southeast Asian leaders, expressed outrage over the killing of journalists in the Philippines and Mrs. Arroyo’s “campaign of intimidation” against the press.
Dillon also described Mrs. Arroyo as resorting to “the methods many dictators use to silence criticism”. She also wants to convince the US government that “her illegal and unconstitutional suppression of journalists actually serves to preserve the constitution and rule of law.”
One way through which she can do that is to show US President Bush that she can be relied on to protect US interests including the welfare of its soldiers–in whose behalf, after all, the Bush government refused to sign the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.
Gonzalez’ statements and acts in the Subic rape case can thus be more clearly understood in this context. As a child of US cultural supremacy, he must know that numerous precedents in US law have established that egging on the commission of a crime like rape makes those responsible almost as guilty as the principal. An assault on justice and an attempt to curry favor with a foreign power, Gonzalez’ order is a double outrage.