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Brainstorm: The Next Generation | Intended mistaken identity?

A.K.A meaning “ALSO KNOWN AS” or an ALIAS, refers to names people use other than their legal names. Using an alias can be illegal particularly if intended to deceive other people but there are allowed common uses of aliases like nicknames or descriptive “pet-names” among friends. I know people called “Kapre”, “Upaw” and “Gamay” and you can only imagine what my friend “Kabayo” looks like.

In criminal cases, when the true name of the suspect is not known, using whatever name or appellation he is known by is allowed and, if even this is unknown, the use of fictitious names as a place holder is allowed. This is why we have case titles like “People vs. Boy Bato” or “People vs. John Doe”. I used to joke that, with my sense of humor, if I were ever to be a City Prosecutor, we would have case titles like “People vs. Santa Claus” during Christmas Season or “People vs. Dracula” on Halloween.

Joking aside, the reason why the law and the rules allow this is to enable the filing of criminal cases against suspects whose true names are unknown so that the crimes will not prescribe before the cases are filed.

It has come to light, however, that the noble purpose of this remedy has been subjected to abuse. Sadly, there have been instances where the corruption and abuse has been perpetrated by those who are supposed to uphold and enforce the law, law enforcers, as well as the military.

Quite recently, I handled a case for a client, whose idenity I will hide under the assumed name “Pedro Santos”. In relation to an encounter with the New People’s Army in the hinterlands of Davao Oriental, a soldier, and I really don’t know if he was there or not, executed an affidavit stating that, during the firefight, he supposedly looked up and, among the persons firing at them, he supposedly saw and recognized a certain “ALIAS PEDRO SANTOS”.

This bare allegation in this soldier’s sworn statement led to the filing of murder and attempted murder cases against all those named, INCLUDING PEDRO SANTOS and, because of this, a Warrant of Arrest was issued against him in a NON-BAILABLE case.

My client works for an international advcacy group based in Metro Manila, had NEVER BEEN to the place of the encounter, HAD NEVER MET the soldier who supposedly identified “ALIAS PEDRO SANTOS” and he was, in fact, in AFRICA giving a lecture, at the time of the encounter.

How could the soldier have identified someone he never met? How could he have seen my client in a place where my client had never been? Finally, how could my client have been there when, at that time, he was halfway across the world in a totally different continent?

In my client’s case, he was a little lucky because he was out of the country when he learned of the issuance of a warrant for his arrest. I say “a little lucky” despite the fact that he had to suffer greatly through being unable to go home to his country and his family for fear of being arrested. Can you imagine if he had been arrested for a non-bailable offense out of the blue and incarcerated indefinitely until things are sorted out?

Under the circumstance, I was able to file a motion for reinvestigation and submit evidence, including a certification from the Bureau of Immigration, that my client was out of the country at the time of the alleged encounter and could not have been there. After reinvestigation, the investigating prosecutor recommended that my client be dropped from the case which was eventually granted by the court.

However, this entire process took months to complete and this was already with the quick action by the reinvestigating prosecutor as well as by the court. What if my client had been arrested? He would have had to be incarcerated for that entire period of time on the basis of a bare allegation made by a soldier in an obviously perjured affidavit.

This case reminds me of what happened just a few months back to Ms. Margarita Valle, a reknowned Mindanao journalist who was suddenly arrested in the airport in Cagayan de Oro City as she was about to fly back home to Davao City. A senior citizen, she was made to suffer the indignity of being physically and forcibly taken only for the police to claim “MISTAKEN IDENTITY” when the backlash, in news and social media particularly, was already escalating.

Likely, if charged with perjury, this is also what that solider in my client’s case, will claim, “MISTAKEN IDENTITY”. What is obvious to me is that this was a case of INTENTIONAL MISTAKEN IDENTITY.

There is an emerging pattern of using the names of members of progressive groups, those which have been “RED-TAGGED” by law enforcement or the military, as “aliases” of suspects in serious criminal cases. The obvious purpose, or at least obvious to me, is to get warrants of arrest against these persons and get them incarcerated regardless of the likelihood that these cases would eventually be dismissed.

Why is this so, it may be asked. It is clear that these unscrupulous people resort to such nefarious schemes because they cannot find legal grounds to file proper criminal cases against those whom they just “believe” to be left-leaning, be it true or not. Sadder still, it is becoming apparent that, to these law enforcers turned law breakers, mere membership in progressive groups, advocacy organizations or other associations identified by them as left-leaning will already make you an enemy of the state.

Let us be very clear on this, being a leftist, a socialist, or an outright communist is NOT ILLEGAL MUCH LESS IS IT CRIMINAL. Our President himself has publicly declared that he is a socialist.

The right to believe in a particular political ideology is protected by the Constitution. It is only when any kind of belief is converted into acts that violate the law, that there can be any kind of sanction from the State.

Thus, what is being done is plain and simple OPPRESSION AND INJUSTICE and the fact that it is done at the hands of those charged with the DUTY to protect the VERY RIGHTS being violated makes it INJUSTICE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.

We cannot be apathetic to this situation because such abuses can happen to any law-abiding citizen, to any of us. Such abuses must be denounced loudly and clearly because tolerance will only cause it to become systemic to the point that such blatant disregard of rights may become standard operating procedure for the abusers.

Again, I would like to be very clear that I fully support the efforts of our men in uniform in enforcing our laws and protecting our citizens and their rights. However, those committing blatant violations of the very rights they are supposed to protect will only serve to degrade and corrupt the good works of the gallant men and women in law enforcement and the military who are true and faithful to their sworn duties.

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