Chapter Commander Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg
Knights of Rizal
16 April, 2009
Sir Virgilio R. Esguerra, KGCR, Supreme Commander
The Members of the Supreme Council
A p p e a l
Dear Sir Virgilio,
Dear Fellow Knights,
On Jan 7, 2009, we received your e-mail with the information that our Chapter Member Rizal Victoria, KR, has been removed from the OKOR after an investigation and a verdict of the Supreme Council, dated Dec 14, 2008.
After long, intensive and often controversial discussions in our Chapter we have come to the following conclusion:
We are rather surprised at all this, and we want to express our dissatisfaction with that decision, as there are several things that create great uneasiness among us.
1. A trial with such severe consequences, namely “separation” of a Member of the OKOR, requires a comprehensive investigation with certain formal requirements, but this is what we are missing.
2. According to our information a “hearing”, as requested by the Manual, had not taken place in the course of the trial, where the accused person, the prosecutor, independent and impartial witnesses and the counsel of defence were present and ”heard”.
3. Our Chapter was never been officially informed that there was an investigation against R. Victoria and we were never asked for our comment or opinion in that matter, which, of course, touches the interests of our Chapter severely. We would have expected that our Chapter would be involved and integrated in the proceedings. Not because of any formal guidelines, but because we expect a fair trial, based on mutual respect. How can the Supreme Council decide on such an important matter without consulting the home Chapter?
Some fellow Knights in our Chapter feel rather disregarded and patronized.
4. The letters that Sir Samuela refers to (“Annex C and D”), written by some European members, Sirs Paras, Guansing, Nollas, Alcoba, Lacuna and Palomar, all at the same time in February and March 2008 (28-2-08 and 7-3-08), and with an almost identical text, are not spon-taneous expressions of dissatisfaction with and anger of individual Knights about R. Victoria, but arouse the suspicion that these letters are the result of a plotted, arranged, controlled and concerted action. This coincidence is rather striking. The problem is that some of those Knights, namely Sirs Paras and Alcoba, have been accused of the same “crime” as R. Vic-toria, namely notorious “misbehaviour and misconduct” towards fellow Knights (“vulgar and indecent words”). So those letters of disapproval of R.Victoria´s behaviour cannot be regard-ed as un-biased proof and evidence for his guilt, as some of those witnesses are not reliable, because they have not got a clean record themselves. Some of those witnesses against R. Victoria are trying to avert from their own guilt of “misconduct” by pointing at him and thus trying to win their superiors´ and the “COMMITTEE´s” sympathy.” Another example: Sir Paras, past Regional Commander for Europe, promised at the European Council Meeting in April 2008 in Brussels to send the European Chapter Commanders the recommendation sheets for the nomination of candidates for Regional and Area Commanders as a feedback, but he broke his word. Sir Rizal, who also heard that promise, called this “lies”. Many Knights feel the same.
5. In Sir Samuela´s explanation of the verdict R.Victoria is accused of not having given “compelling proof” for his words that “the exaltation of Sir Alcoba to KGOR” was unacceptable. Many European Knights hold exactly the same opinion as R. Victoria.
We are missing that no action and no investigation has so far been started against Sirs Paras and Alcoba, although the IHQ knows all the facts and details, as it has received “compelling proof” for “Sir” Alcoba´s “misbehaviour and misconduct” and it has several times been requested to start an investigation against them. On the contrary, instead of being punished, those people were even rewarded with the exaltation to KGOR or given high positions.
This appears extremely biased and partial, as a blind eye is being turned on one person´s guilt, whereas nothing happens to others. Are there not double standards applied?
Do those exaltations mean that those people´s “misconduct” was pardoned and rectified by the IHQ? Had not Sir Esguerra himself written in 2008 “we do not tolerate vulgar and indecent words in the OKOR”?
6. Contrary to Sir Samuela´s official explanation for the verdict (“Annex C and D” in his letter), no “Europe Area Council” had dealt with the “Rizal Victoria Case”, let alone spoken out against him. By the way, there is no official institution like a “Europe Area Council”, Europe is a “Region”, not an “Area”; it just does not exist! So all this has been fabricated. When there was, however, an official “European Council Meeting”, in Brussels in April 2008, none of those authors of the letters (dated February and March 2008), who were almost com-pletely present at the Meeting, touched that topic and challenged Sir Rizal, although he was present. Why? Were they afraid of an open discussion?
7. In Sir Samuela´s explanation of the verdict it is mentioned that suggestions by Chapters for the “Amendment of the By-Laws” in the last 2 years had been dealt with properly (contrary to R. Victoria´s “simply false accusations”!), but I have never heard that any of the suggestions I sent to Manila in the past had been dealt with at all. All my letters and memos with sugges-tions and recommendations concerning the “amendment of the by-laws” disappeared some-where at the IHQ.
8. We know and resent that R. Victoria´s words are often too harsh and sometimes going too far, and we would certainly not support or use his language, but we do dissociate ourselves from his style, tone and language, but we also know that many committed Knights and Rizalists in our Chapter and worldwide have similar criticism and objections to certain facts, decisions and developments in our Order. I myself have written a number of letters to the Supreme Commander (June, September, December 2008), two of them without any reply, in which I have expressed my and other Knights´ dissatisfaction and objections to certain decisions of the Supreme Council. These letters were supported by a number of 5 or 6 European Chapter Commanders.
So R. Victoria does not stand alone with his criticism and his awkward questions, although those critics would never use the same language as R. Victoria, which is quite often unacceptable. Most people who meet R. Victoria personally do not find him the devil, as which he is demonized by his enemies, but rather find him a “nice guy”, as did Sir Poblete and Sir Garcia, our Area Commander, recently.
9. R. Victoria would not have started his “fight”, if all those detrimental and disgraceful things, like mutual accusations, mud-slinging, lawsuits, forming and changing of coalitions and factions, and dirty tricks in Manila and incomprehensible exaltations and appointments here in Europe had not happened. Things, which caused meritorious and committed Knights to leave the Order.
10. R. Victoria has been a very active and committed member of our Chapter for many years (he was Trustee and Chancellor in our Chapter for several years, he has organized our Chapter´s humanitarian and social commitment in the Philippines), he is our connection to the Philippine community in our region, and he is an unselfish, honest and keen Rizalist with respectable motives. Have these things been considered and taken into account? We have the impression that these facts do not seem to have made any impression on the “COMMITTEE” in his “case”, although according to the Manual the “circumstances of each case “ have to be considered. At our last Chapter Meeting on Dec 30, 2008, before we had received the verdict from Manila, Sir Rizal was unanimously re-elected Chapter Chancellor by all Chapter mem-bers who were present. And last autumn Sir Rizal, KR, was exalted KOR by Sir Esguerra´s own signature.
Why was he simultaneously exalted, when there was an investigation of the “COMMITTEE” against him on its way?
11. A generally and internationally accepted basic principle of democratic and constitutional law demands that those who have been accused cannot be the judges in that trial. Only in dictatorships both are the same body. The Supreme Council´s “COMMITTEE” is not an unbiased and independent body, as it consist of people who themselves have been severely criticised and attacked by R. Victoria. So their verdict cannot be fair, balanced and impartial.
Therefore it would be better to have a new trial with new members who themselves have not been criticized by R. Victoria and are thus not biased.
We have got the impression that at the trial against R. Victoria only incriminating facts, “fabricated evidence” and partial, false and malevolent witnesses were heard and taken into account, whereas exonerating and positive elements were left out, and the question “What are his motives?” seems not to have been asked by the “COMMITTEE”.
Not everybody would, like the newly appointed Area Commander Sir Taguiang from London, send letters/e-mails expressing their grateful “congratulations for the well-done job” of the Supreme Council in the “Victoria Case”. We have heard completely different voices in Germany and Europe.
In our Chapter your verdict creates tension and unease and endangers solidarity within the Chapter, the credibility and “reputation” of our Order and also the continued and active existence of our Chapter Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg, places which were so fruitful for José Rizal and play such an important role for Rizalism in Germany, Europe and worldwide. Several Chapter Members have left our Chapter already, not because of R. Victoria, but because of things happening in Manila (see above!).
In the meantime we have had serious and intensive talks with Rizal Victoria. He has empha-sized that the well-being of our Order has his priority and that he does not want to offend or insult anybody personally. His criticism is intended to improve the Order´s “dignity, integrity, and reputation” and efficiency. We are trying to make him moderate his tone of criticism and refrain from unjustly attacking people using “vulgar and indecent words”, without giving up his right of free speech and criticism (which are both essential in a democracy and should also be essential in our Order even more so, if we deserve being called after José Rizal), even if some people do not like that. It is every Knight´s right and duty to speak up against negative developments and behaviours in our Order, and this is good Rizalian tradition, who himself did not accommodate to and come to terms with injustice, un-fairness, oppression, selfishness and hypocrisy.
Considering all these “circumstances” we request not to execute the “separation” verdict of Dec 14, 2008, before a new decision in this matter has been made, and to repeal it, to open the “case” against R. Victoria again. We request you to install a truly impartial and independent jury e.g. here in Europe with judges who know the situation here better and who are not personally involved in this conflict. Perhaps a jury like the “Committee of Ethics” (as proposed and propagated by Sir Peter Plückebaum, Deputy Regional Commander Europe, in Brussels last December), which involves European Knights and allows the Chapter concerned to participate in a written or oral form, could also be possible and feasible to deal with the “Victoria Case” in an appropriate and sensible way.
The way R. Victoria has dealt with our Order´s superiors in some of his e-mails is not acceptable, but the way they have dealt with him in the past trial is neither. The procedure and the circumstances of the trial are not as it should be, if it wants to win respect and acceptance and restore the “dignity, integrity and reputation” of the Order. We do not defend him for the way he wrote and criticised, but we do question and criticize a doubtful and questionable trial and its verdict, which to some looks more like an act of revenge than like a fair and just decision.
Of course, if un-Rizalian behaviour and a breach of José Rizal´s ideas and teachings by R. Victoria are proved without any doubts in a new and fair trial that fulfils the basic judicial and formal requirements, we would certainly accept such a verdict.
But as long as all those questions to the Supreme Council concerning certain decisions (e.g. elevation of “Sirs” like Alcoba, or Sir Paras´ appointment as Regional Commander etc. instead of punishment), that have been asked by R. Victoria and others (see letters to Sir Esguerra by 6 European Chapter Commanders in 2008 !), have not all been answered satis-factorily by the Supreme Council, there will not be a mutually accepted solution of those problems and the “cancer” of distrust, dissatisfaction and criticism will keep growing.
Only if a mutually accepted solution between the critics and our superiors is achieved, the trust of Knights here in Europe in fairness, the rule of law and in the true realization of José Rizal´s ideas in our Order can be re-established and the peace in our Chapter can be restored in the long run and for the good of our Order.
We hope to receive a positive reply to our request.
With best Rizalian wishes and Non Omnis Moriar,
Rainer J. Weber, KCR,
Chapter Commander Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg