Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Law, Justice, Crime, Punishment

As I write this, three Filipino drug traffickers-- tried,convicted and sentenced to death-- are relishing the last hours of their life in a Chinese prison. By the time I get around to posting this they very well may be dead.

A trip to China by Vice President Binay bought them some time, but China's justice system has proved as impenetrable as their government. Let's face the facts, if we want them to respect our law we'll need to respect theirs. Honestly, the Vice President has just as much business going to China to plead for them as he does going to our local jails and begging the wardens to free the prisoners. I don't believe in the death penalty, but I do believe in the rule of law.

Today's newspaper headline is "Nation on bended knee". There is this horrible tendency of Filipinos to overlook the fact that a person is a convicted criminal whenever the conviction is in another country. Like that time two years ago when a different Vice President successfully won freedom for the confessed killer of a 6-year old boy. I can't help but feel that the moments of silence, prayers, and vigils should go to the innocent.

In a related story, Senator Ping Lacson has finally returned to the Philippines from his life as a fugitive on murder charges, successfully escaping an international manhunt. While the charges against Lacson have been dropped, the Justice Department is supposedly pursuing the people who helped Lacson evade capture.

Tell me, what exactly is the point of going after the coddlers if you're going to completely let go of Lacson himself? If anyone is responsible for the millions of pesos and millions of manhours utterly wasted on trying to find him, shouldn't it be the fugitive himself? It should not matter that he is no longer officially a murder suspect. When Senator Lacson fled the country over a year ago, he wasn't merely eluding captivity by the police, he was betraying the very system of laws and government that he swore to uphold when he took his oath of office. And now he has returned to the country to continue being a member of congress and making a mockery of the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson serves his own time in a Hong Kong prison for drug possession. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and shortly thereafter resigned from his position in Congress amid talk that the House of Representatives would vote to expel him. But really, why demonize Singson but tolerate Lacson? At least he cooperated. He didn't waste anyone's time. He plead guilty and accepted his punishment. Yet not once did I hear a suggestion of expelling Lacson from the Senate for his abandonment.

Then there's Antonio Trillanes. If you're still on his side then there's simply no reasoning with you. He and his cohorts abandoned the chain of command and took hostage a luxury apartment tower. When given his day in court four years later he stormed out and seiged a luxury hotel, causing more chaos. Fast forward just three years, a new president comes to power and lets these characters go scot free barely a month before the court is scheduled to render judgement upon them.

I haven't even mentioned Estrada yet, who finished second place in the presidential election less than three years after being found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of plunder. God help us.

Lacson, Singson, Trillanes, Estrada, Webb, and those three drug traffickers in China-- somehow I get the feeling that there's a connection in the way the Philippines' methods and priorities in terms of justice are all utterly backwards. There's definitely something wrong here at a very basic level.

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