Contrary to Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s delusion that he’s the most hated person in the Philippines, he isn’t. It’s not because he doesn’t qualify. It’s because there are literally hundreds of other candidates for that title, most of whom are in the same government that he serves, among them other Cabinet members, certain congressmen, governors and mayors, police and military generals, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The most colorful epithets are in fact reserved for the latter by businessmen and professionals — and even by her former economics adviser, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who once called her “a lucky bitch” in public. (God knows what he calls her in private.) And that’s only at the highest levels of government. Imagine how many other people responsible for their suffering — landlords, usurers, MMDA traffic enforcers, policemen — common folk must also resent.

But Agra isn’t so much hateful as pathetic. He’d even be funny if what he’s done weren’t as serious as reinforcing the culture of impunity that has so far claimed not only the lives of 113 journalists and media workers, but also of over a thousand political activists, judges, teachers and human rights workers in this archipelago of tears.

Agra can’t resist trying to defend the indefensible, in the process revealing to one and all that what matters most to Agra is Agra. He can’t understand why so many people including his own prosecutors are so outraged over his order to drop the multiple murder charges against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan. Neither can he see the Ampatuan Massacre, in which 57 people were killed in one day, in the context of the urgency of ending the lawlessness and violence the feeble justice system — of which he, corrupt policemen and crooked judges are sterling embodiments — encourages.

His focus on himself aside, Agra’s attempts to justify his order are also prime examples of the sheer gall and clueless arrogance so characteristic of Arroyo officialdom.

Officials as contemptible in Korea or Japan would be resigning and jumping off buildings or committing seppuku. But not in this country and not Agra, whom we can be sure won’t be jumping off the topmost floor of the Department of Justice building. Last Monday he not only announced that he would NOT resign, he also said he would NOT form a panel to evaluate his order, and would NOT inhibit himself from hearing the motion for reconsideration of HIS order some of the private prosecutors in the Ampatuan case have filed. He even tried to pass off this litany of what he won’t do as proof of how courageous he is, in the same way that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo tries to make a virtue out of ignoring citizen sentiments.

He didn’t stop there, but went on to proclaim that the reason why he’s NOT inhibiting himself from the hearings on the motion for reconsideration is because HE hasn’t lost faith in HIS own objectivity.

Somebody get him a dictionary quick, so he can look up “objectivity.” While he’s at it, maybe he can also look up the meaning of “justice” too.

But if a “justice secretary” can represent the very opposite of his agency’s name and mandate, a political party that’s for regression can also call itself reformist. That is the case with Ang Kapatiran, which claims to be reformist and an alternative to the traditional political parties, but which isn’t either.

It’s been accused of being for the status quo, which would make it a conservative party. But it’s actually a party of retrogression, in that (although it’s not saying it), it’s for bringing the country back to the 19th century, when Church and State were one.

The bishops of the Catholic church are supporting Ang Kapatiran, and Ang Kapatiran is supporting the bishops. I’m not referring to their commitment to something they call “Godly politics” but which they don’t define. I’m referring to their and the Church’s opposition to artificial methods of family planning and their advocacy of “natural methods” — those methods that, the old joke says, usually result in parenthood. (Question: What do you call practitioners of “natural methods” of family planning? Answer: Parents.)

Its being in bed with the Church alone is enough to make Ang Kapatiran a throwback to the 19th century. But JC de los Reyes, its candidate for president, sounds as if he were living in the Middle Ages rather than in the second millennium whenever he weighs in on such issues as reproductive health, sex education and gender equality.

De los Reyes is opposed to the Department of Health’s program of distributing condoms as a means of preventing HIV-AIDS because condoms supposedly encourage infidelity and promiscuity. He’s equally opposed to sex education because, anyway, he says, young people “naturally” and “instinctively” know about sex. He’s also against equal rights for women because women who know their rights would upset “domestic tranquility.” I’m almost sure that if pressed de los Reyes would also admit to being against evolution and for creationism.

Some people can’t believe what they hear each time de los Reyes opens his mouth, but they eventually end up in stitches and determined never to make the mistake of voting for him and his so-called party, which incidentally promises to make the press “more responsible” should it ever come to power, and to ban the tinting of car windows (Both have been tried — by the Marcos government during the martial law period.)

There’s no chance in hell or heaven that he’ll ever end up president of this unfortunate Republic, but what’s worrying about de los Reyes and his party is that they’re giving reform and change a bad name and making even the worst of the trapos look good in comparison. It’s the same problem facing the DOJ prosecutors protesting Agra’s order: the DOJ’s reputation is already tarnished, but Agra’s order is making it look even worse, and convincing many Filipinos that you can’t get justice from the very agency charged with assuring it.


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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