OUR OWN TRIAL OF RIZAL
By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes
Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers
(December 30, 1997)
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USTICE DELAYED is justice denied, goes the dictum, but there is also such a thing as speedy injustice, one that is widely associated with military tribunals. Jose Rizal was not a victim of a footdragging judicial system. In fact he was charged, investigated, tried and executed in less than one month! In fact, what was passed off as his trial (the reading of prosecution and defense briefs sans any confrontation or examination of witnesses) and the promulgation of the guilty verdict by the panel of judges took less than a full working day!
These revelations come from Hon. Jose C. de la Rama, a retired Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, who is now preparing to publish his extensive research on the details of Rizal's trial in that cold December month exactly a century ago.
The Spanish authorities wanted Rizal dead and they wanted him dead immediately. It was a terror tactic designed to demoralize the Filipinos into abandoning the Revolution that bannered his teachings along with those of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto. By that month, the Revolution that broke out in August and signalled the Birth of our Nation, had already spread as far as Cotabato and Sulu. That terror tactic failed miserably.
Justice De la Rama did a wonderful job of pointing out convincingly at the Rizal Martyrdom Centannial forum in Malolos, Bulacan recently, that it was a gross mistrial. Speaking at the same forum, I pointed out another trial of Rizal. This other trial of Rizal cannot be described as a speedy one.
In fact it is yet unfinished up to now, a full century after the first. Moreover, the ones sitting in judgement are not hanging judges out to eliminate a "dangerous man" but dozens of millions of confused Filipinos. Yes, even as almost all Filipinos honor Rizal for one reason and to one degree or another, we, as a nation, have not arrived at a unified verdict on him.
Speakers at that forum reflected to a certain extent the discrepancy of views. One was saying Rizal helped the Americans more than the Philippine cause (he later agreed to a response that Rizal was used by the Americans but he did not help the latter). Another speaker berated a journalist for coming out with information about Rizal's weaknesses, including allegedly having gotten low grades in some subjects in school. Actually, the view of some Rizalista groups that Rizal was (or is) the "Filipino Christ" was not even expressed at all in that forum.
The trial continues while the 64 million members of the jury try to make up their minds. The verdict, as it shapes up, is not merely what we all say about the man. It's more how we shape our lives in accordance or in contrast to his teachings.
(Kamalaysayan Media Service)
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