Sunday, October 12, 2008



By Erick San Juan

Judging by the kind of public reactions generated by the presidential clemency granted recently to high profile convicts in the Philippines, make judicious person go crazy on what to do with criminals.

Going by the kind of public outburst that followed the recent release of murder convict Claudio Teehankee, Jr., no one can stop right-thinking individuals from thinking that perhaps, and only perhaps, the proper way of disposing with criminal cases – if only to avoid getting chastised for being judicious - is to put every felon against an adobe wall and have them executed by a firing squad.

Or, better still, if the critics can just pause and sit a while to think about the fate that befell Jesus Christ, whose fate as the Holy Scripture says, Pontius Pilate – after washing his hands - left to the mob that, in those times were, in unison, demanding for His crucifixion.

Watching the news on television makes me scratch my head to witness the likes of Dante Jimenez, head of an anti-crime and advocacy group, who I am sure, is not adequately educated on the Legal profession, in effect lecturing the justice department on how to compute the time that Teehankee should do behind bars before he gets freed. It makes me twist and turn each time I get reminded that in the Rules of Court, there is a provision that allows such a thing as “simultaneous service of sentence” by convicts for certain crimes.

On the other hand, there may be nothing wrong about people expressing their sympathies to the family of a murder victim. But for them to demand that government must first ask the prior approval by the victim’s family on what the law allows or require over the disposition of a case, would be unimaginable, if not a little too absurd.

But always keep in mind that what is good for the goose, must also be good for the gander. This is the essence of democracy.

Teehankee got pardoned along with several other convicts, who similarly applied of presidential clemency based on time honored standards and established practices. But how come the public furor got concentrated on the son of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice? Is this brought about by his strata in society? Or, do the kettle-bangers simply feel that landing on the front pages and getting footages and voice clips could be a lot easier if a high profile personality were to be the center of their tirade? Opportunism, isn’t it?

Experience tells us that listening to the mob delivers nothing good, but injustice to mankind. We are told, time and again, that the Lord Jesus could have propagated the gospel to a broader mass had He been allowed go by the Pharisees, during his trial on orders of Julius Caesar.

With this at the background, we are reminded about the possible grave injustice that our society may be inflicting upon the soldiers, who may have been erroneously convicted for the killing of Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.,despite that not all of them were really involved and in spite of persistent threats against Ninoy, fraudulently maneuvered his way back to Philippine soil, only to be mowed down at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport upon his arrival.

In the series of probes that followed, it turned out that aside from those who had been charged and eventually convicted for the killing of Aquino and Rolando Galman, there were a couple of other personalities in involved the dastardly crime that was committed, yet these people – who played pivotal roles in the celebrated assassination – were, up until now - never indicted, with some of them still roaming the streets freely.

The sad part of this episode is that some of the convicts, who, like Aquino and Galman, were mere victims of a grand conspiracy, continue to languish behind bars, all of them old and gray and some of them have either made their way to join their Creator or are about to bid their last goodbye.

While the family of ailing former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, who, in spite of having been in power for 7 years (yet failed to determine who the mastermind for the murder is), untiringly throws the monkey wrench on every attempt to grant executive clemency to the aging convicts.

Time to put an end to a compartmentalized justice system of this type, isn’t it?

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