“It is not the severity of punishments that deter crimes but certainty.”
~Commander Shepard, Mass Effect
Here’s a quote worthy of some contemplation. The local media grinds out show after show on TV, sponsored by greedy corporations and starred and promoted by narcissistic celebrities who probably don’t even know half of what they’re talking about, but few of them have characters that have ever dropped a line that is as wise and as practical as the one mentioned above. Of course, it’s probably beyond the point of what I want to say here but I just couldn’t help myself.
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Now, going back to the statement above. In light of the recent events, especially that of the Fallen 44, I must ask the question: Is there really any justice in the Philippines anymore? This has been bothering me for quite some time now because, looking around my home city, it seems as though the authorities figures of today are more or less there for the sake of formality instead of being the pillars of morality and order that they are intended to be. While my sympathies go to those 44 brave men who lost their lives fighting terrorists and their families, I am still more than a little bothered by the fact that there are still large numbers of policemen who are openly corrupt or at least negligent in their duties.
Allow me to further elaborate on what I’m trying to say here:
Look, I’m well aware of the fact that there are dirty cops everywhere. There never is a shortage of them in the world. Unfortunately for Filipinos, they seem to have become an accepted part of society instead of a cause for outrage. In Manila, I have once witnessed a policeman beating a defenseless woman in broad daylight with little regard for who saw them. In my own home city, policemen fine or arrest motorcyclists not wearing helmets when they themselves travel and patrol the roads helmetless. Some police forces turn a blind eye to criminals and criminal activities unless the media is somehow involved.
As I said, I try to treat authority figures with some degree of respect. They are, after all, there for the betterment of the country and society. If they are ever judgmental or harsh, it is probably because of the nature of their job. You cannot fool around with dangerous criminals after all.
While corrupt cops are certainly prevalent on a global scale, one must still consider the fact that all societies need a strong and capable police force if it wants to get anywhere. You can’t make a good living if thieves keep stealing your merchandise, right? I commend the Fallen 44 for their brave actions but if the ordinary cop is just out for himself, who can the common people turn to for help when things go pear-shaped?
Thankfully however, with the actions of the Fallen 44, the introduction of competent women into the Philippine police force and the overall support for the lost policemen, I feel a bit optimistic about the PNP. I can only hope however that my optimism will eventually prove true in the times ahead because, based on what’s happening so far, we’re probably going to need it. Unfortunately, I’d also like to add that I have been wrong before and gut feelings are seldom reliable.
No One Wants to Take Responsibility
This is by far one of the worst offenses Filipinos commit against Lady Justice. Even when proven wrong, guilty or outright immoral, some people still continue to deny or justify their actions often with flimsy arguments.
Of course, I still adhere to the idea that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty”, but some people continue pushing the limits even when they’ve been caught red-handed. It’s amazing how some people will even resort to saying that they were framed or cheated even if their troubles are merely consequences of their actions. In the end, no one wants to take responsibility and just resort to the ever-reliable tactic of playing the blame game.
As Bob Ong once said: “No one wants to be them.” When you accuse the common thief of being a criminal, he will tell you that he was forced by the circumstances of his life and that he is not to blame. If any of the corrupt cops mentioned above are finally caught, they will try to justify their actions with not being adequately by the government. When a corrupt politician is ever discovered, he or she will probably come up with a story about being a Robin Hood Archetype and using their stolen funds to help people who may or may not even exist. Even the terrorists refuse to take responsibility for their heinous activities and claim that those terrorizing the populace are just a radical splinter group. It just goes on and on and, in the end, nothing is ever resolved.
I’m not asking for people to suddenly admit to the crimes they’ve done in their lives, but I’m just hoping that we can at least instill a sense of justice in ourselves. A true, and not superficial, sense of what is right and what is wrong. We must learn to hold ourselves accountable for the things we do and be prepared for the consequences that they may entail.
People are Too Eager to Take the Law into Their own Hands
A few years back, there was the case of alleged “rape” in SBMA. There were a large number of inconsistencies about the case such as the number of people suspected to be involved in the incident and the identity of the people involved. However, despite not having enough evidence to back their claim, people claiming to be “feminists” and against “American imperialism”, marched into the streets shouting for the American forces stationed in SBMA to leave. It was later on discovered that the said rape victim is now living in the United States with some of her family members.
Then there was that road incident wherein a man beat up a policeman in front of a CCTV camera. While yes, it was said that the cop was thought to be quite corrupt, it was still clearly an act of violence against a figure of authority. This does not paint a pretty image of what justice should be about. If justice is just beating the crap out of people who did bad things to you and others, does that mean I have the right to go out and beat up the school bullies who used to pick on me in school?
Of course, let’s not forget the Laude case. I will state that he does deserve some sympathy, I would also like to point out that even though there was little evidence of Pemberton being the real murderer, people were already howling for his blood. While no one deserves to die, no one deserves to be jailed unjustly either. Again, many Filipinos allowed their emotions to get the better of them and lashed out at the visiting US military without even considering the facts and possibilities regarding what really happened.
For their to be true justice in the land, we must learn to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions. We must learn to admit to our own mistakes and fallibility and stop using lame excuses and scapegoats to justify our stupidity and cruelty. For our nation to be united, there must be an undivided respect for the laws of the land and an understanding of what each entails. Like children, many of us need to grow up and take responsibility for what they’ve done regardless whether they are politicians, celebrities, clergy, policemen, tribesmen, or common citizens.
As Commander Shepard said, it’s not how brutal a punishment is that prevents people from committing crimes but the swift and unrelenting action of law enforcement. Justice is not about power. Justice is about responsibility.
I HAVE RETURNED TO LAY WASTE TO OUR ENEMIES!