Alabang boys – case of media over-fixation

Alabang boys – case of media over-fixation

Tri-media may have wittingly or unwittingly over-fixated itself with the case of so-called Alabang boys where sons of apparently wealthy families from Alabang have been arrested by agents of PDEA in an alleged buy-bust operation. The viewing universe is given sufficient enough regular dosage of news as the case develops and there is no controlling more strange versions from coming out – one at least entirely theatrical – when another Brodette family came into the picture. While not invited to the House inquiry, they volunteered to appear to say their piece on the controversy apparently to bolster the version of the PDEA except that it later on made motive clear they have an ax to grind against their own Brodette relatives, subject of alleged big time drug ring with international network. .

It is not far removed that in the next few days, the case might really construct or reconstruct itself into a whole – with or without – any need for a public hearing in full media coverage. And it seems that no further court proceeding might be necessary to put the case to a final clause. We have heard DOJ threatened to reprimand, suspend or even disbar Atty. Verano, counsel of the drug suspects. And the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption headed by Mr. Jimenez also joined the fray by filing a case against the drug suspects’ lawyer with the Ombudsman. No less than Rep. Golez aired the same call that it becomes a waiting game for the Ombudsman (euphemism for its uncharacteristic over anxiety) as soon as the time pendulum swings to its end. It seems every kind of artist wants to paint his piece in the canvas were the whole drug case a huge tabularasa of a canvass.

What we now have is classic case of “karambola”, call it that. From a turf war between PDEA and DOJ with its prosecutors to a family feud between Brodette brothers and their families, it becomes an image war between Atty. Resado and Major Marcelino to one which could mutate to be an escalating word war between DOJ secretary and PDEA chief. And as all these things happen, the focal issue that ought to have explained the true circumstances of the alleged warrantless arrest in a reported buy-bust operation and alleged bribery in regard to a release order – as two separate and distinct areas of concern – have been but hidden from public view. House Members did in fact threaten to cite Atty. Resado of DOJ in contempt and would even go as far as will try to investigate how the matter of a DOJ official letterhead came into the hands of Atty. Verano, counsel of the Alabang boys. Fact is, Rep. Biazon no less than wants Atty. Resado to resign out of delicadeza. In short, the supposedly dismissed case for lack of sufficient evidence – because of the new bribery angle tagged to it – then turned into a case of personality cult.

There is more than meets the eyes on this overexposed case of the Alabang boys. To begin with, only one of the three suspects is living in posh Ayala Alabang. The DOJ secretary did not have to belie what Atty. Verano claimed was a meeting with Secretary Gonzales and him with the parents of the suspects except that perhaps Atty. Verano failed to rightly understand what Gonzales told him. In like manner, Major Marcelino could have also misunderstood Secretary Gonzales when he thought what was insinuated was that he was a war freak. It becomes apparent that given the same constitutional context, Gonzales and Marcelino have differing frames of mind and there are two languages spoken in the hearing – one from a lawyer and another from a purely military professional.

There is already a clear perception that PDEA falls short of the legal requirements set by law in the conduct of a supposed-to-be legally permissible and legitimate buy-bust operation. It has become clear that there was no reasonable effort nor attempt from Major Marcelino to track down on the alleged briber of so-called “3M pizza” by yet another work in entrapment. From Santiago’s own admission, he was actually saying that all the information they are having are simply volunteered or fed to them without them as much as having to do an intricate case build up as Major Marcelino earlier claimed.

Meantime, the mistahs of Major Marcelino have all been interviewed on TV manifesting their support for the good major of the Marines. If this is not an image build up, we don’t know what is. And it has become so precisely because, the Fourth Estate is registering its own bias for Marcelino than for the Alabang boys or Atty. Resado. Mainstream media appear to also cast PDEA chief in positive light and Gonzales gets the short end of the bargain. Not few quarters believe – in the bar of public opinion – that PDEA through its chief and operatives like Major Marcelino are doing a good job, it appearing they are incorruptible men who do not accept bribes. But then again, such claim has no two legs to stand on

On the other hand, some quarters perceive that at the DOJ, most drug cases are simply being dismissed to the extent that there is an evolving thinking that DOJ coddles drug pushers. The manner people think or form value judgments on the issue of the Alabang boys really challenges reflection. If DOJ has to disbar the counsel for the accused, would that not leave a bad taste to the mouth? On the other hand, if the House presses to disbar Atty. Resado for possibly mistaken perception that he does, in effect, coddle the accused-suspects, then again, what would that truly imply? Surprisingly enough, PDEA Chief Santiago already made categorical statement that DOJ Secretary Gonzales is clean – only him. Are we to expect DOJ Secretary to say that of the PDEA Chief likewise? Yet, we always talk of command responsibility except that we always save the chief first and everyone else a pack of sacrificial lambs.

In the end, some individuals might do a paradigm shift. Perhaps, as election nears, they want to shift in high gear to propel their great big chances to political stardom. Marcelino may do another trick done by Trillanes and Honasan and poor Atty. Resado – rather unfairly – gets the whole brunt on this case that has reached this level of consciousness, however maybe anachronistic, through dreadful media hypnosis. Sotto might do a comeback along this route as chair of the Dangerous Drugs Board. Golez might do an easy nice ascent to the Senate come 2010 – as the social fever against the Alabang boys keeps rising – pray not.

Perhaps, enough of this consuming media hype on this drug case that eclipses the real order of business which is that, we should leave DOJ does its mandate. From where I stand, where the work of enforcement ends, the work of the prosecution begins. Let not one PDEA chief casts suspicion to DOJ as an institution to the point he undermines the integrity of court prosecutors in high profile drug cases. Truly, PDEA itself must follow all the legal technicalities intended to prevent abuse of authority on the part of most enforcement agencies.