Heckler in the Cabinet
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:44:00 10/11/2008
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who told critics protesting the grant of executive clemency to convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. to plead their case with Jesus Christ, has issued another piece of advice. And this time it is addressed directly to the family of the murdered Maureen Hultman. “If they can’t accept it, they can jump into the lake,” Gonzalez said Thursday. “Very wide naman ang North Sea.”
Gonzalez was reacting to Anders and Vivian Hultman who protested the “sneaky and hasty” way by which their daughter’s killer had regained his freedom. In 1992, Teehankee, son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr. and brother of former justice undersecretary and now Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, was convicted for the 1991 double murder of Maureen Hultman, 17, and Roland John Chapman and the near fatal shooting of Jussi Leino. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and another jail term of eight to 14 years for his crimes. But he walked out a free man before midnight on Friday, after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him executive clemency.
The Hultmans, who have since relocated to Sweden, protested the seeming haste and secrecy of the presidential pardon. They said they were not informed beforehand of Teehankee’s release in violation of established procedures.
Administration officials, however, insisted that the Hultmans knew that a presidential pardon was in the works as early as 1999 when they signed a document accepting settlement of civil damages. But the Hultmans said a pardon for Teehankee was not part of the agreement.
To Gonzalez, that made the Hultmans “hypocrites.”
Tactless, tasteless and totally insensitive — that is the justice secretary for you. This is not the first time he has bared his fishwife’s tongue. In 2005 when actress Susan Roces accused Ms Arroyo of stealing the presidency from her husband, Fernando Poe Jr., Gonzalez dismissed her as a “griping widow” and said she was “too beautiful to be sent to jail.” Soon after former President Corazon Aquino called for Ms Arroyo’s resignation, he told her to “first take care of her daughter” Kris Aquino, who was involved in some messy romantic liaisons.
But for sheer boorishness and insensitivity, his remarks against the Hultmans take the cake. Someone ought to tell Gonzalez to go jump into the filthy Pasig River with his foul mouth.
But who will do it? In a more civil and decent administration such coarse remarks would have cost Gonzalez his job. But apparently the President thinks he is just being cute. Or perhaps she believes she needs a resident heckler in her Cabinet to drown out protests against the miscues and blunders of her administration.