The in­jus­tice league

Business World - - Opinion - LUIS V. TEODORO

Se­na­tor Aquilino “Koko” Pi­mentel III said a few days ago that those in­di­vid­u­als and groups de­mand­ing the im­pris­on­ment of Imelda Mar­cos be­cause of her con­vic­tion on seven counts of graft should be “fair” to the Mar­cos fam­ily ma­tri­arch by re­spect­ing her con­sti­tu­tional rights, among them her right to post bail.

If her fam­ily was un­fair to the peo­ple dur­ing the bru­tal reign of the Mar­cos klep­toc­racy, said Pi­mentel, they should nev­er­the­less be fair to her — al­though the most the peo­ple can do is de­mand her im­pris­on­ment, be­cause only the courts and the so-called “jus­tice sys­tem” have the power to jail any­one. Be­cause much of that sys­tem is a cap­tive of the oli­garchy that rules th­ese isles, Imelda Mar­cos is in fact out on bail and scot-free de­spite her con­vic­tion, and un­likely to ever spend a sin­gle night in jail.

By “fair” Pi­mentel ap­par­ently means let­ting her file what­ever ap­peal or mo­tion she wants be­fore any court she chooses. But fair­ness also means giv­ing one his or her due, and is there­fore an­other name for jus­tice. And jus­tice can only be re­al­ized by met­ing out re­wards com­men­su­rate to one’s good deeds, and penal­ties pro­por­tion­ate to one’s trans­gres­sions.

Fair­ness is in this sense ex­actly what those de­mand­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Sandi­gan­bayan rul­ing are ask­ing for: that Imelda Mar­cos be pe­nal­ized in terms ap­pro­pri­ate to her of­fense.

Jus­tice is af­ter all ex­actly what the dic­ta­tor­ship of which she was part­ner and ac­com­plice de­nied this coun­try and its peo­ple dur­ing its 14-year rule. Not only have the mur­der­ers and tor­tur­ers of that pe­riod had a huge sup­ply and the mas­ter­minds be­hind them eluded the pun­ish­ment that is their due. What is even more out­ra­geous is that many of the world-class thieves that set those sub-hu­mans loose have also sur­vived and thrived in all the regimes that suc­ceeded Mar­cos and are at this very mo­ment con­tin­u­ing to mock not only the laws of the land but ev­ery code of civ­i­lized society as well.

They pre­tend to be vic­tims rather than crim­i­nals, are ar­ro­gantly un­re­pen­tant, and have made full use of the pub­lic funds they robbed the peo­ple of by buying the loy­al­ties of en­tire com­mu­ni­ties and much of the cor­rupt bu­reau­cracy in fur­ther­ance of their undy­ing am­bi­tion to once more rule the same coun­try they and their ac­com­plices have never cared about.

Pi­mentel is so right. The Mar­coses were in­deed not fair dur­ing the reign of their late pa­tri­arch. He is also in a bet­ter po­si­tion than many oth­ers of his gen­er­a­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate the ab­sence of jus­tice and fair­ness dur­ing the Mar­cos regime, his fa­ther hav­ing been one of its thou­sands of vic­tims.

In 1972, Aquilino “Nene” Pi­mentel, Jr. was ar­rested and detained by that regime for be­ing among the del­e­gates to the 1971 Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion who op­posed the draft of the Char­ter that would en­able Fer­di­nand Mar­cos to run for a third term and which con­tained a num­ber of other an­tipeo­ple pro­vi­sions.

Detained at the gym­na­sium that had been con­verted into a prison in the Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary (PC) head­quar­ters in Camp Crame, Que­zon City, “Nene” Pi­mentel nev­er­the­less used his time and skills as a lawyer to rep­re­sent sev­eral poor de­tainees who had been ar­rested on the ba­sis of man­u­fac­tured and even nonex­is­tent ev­i­dence. When they re­al­ized what he was do­ing, his PC cap­tors moved him from the Camp Crame gym to the stock­ade to in­tim­i­date him. But even while among hard­ened crim­i­nals there, he con­tin­ued to serve as the lawyer of de­tainees who had no coun­sel. Re­leased af­ter three months, he re­fused to sign the 1973 Mar­cos Con­sti­tu­tion de­spite mar­tial law’s still be­ing in force.

Run­ning with Benigno Aquino, Jr. for the in­terim Batasang Pam­bansa elec­tions in 1978, Pi­mentel joined op­po­si­tion lead­ers Lorenzo Tañada, and Te­ofisto Guing­ona in protest­ing the fraud-rid­den elec­tion. He was again ar­rested and detained for be­ing part of a demon­stra­tion de­nounc­ing it. Pi­mentel was ar­rested for the third time on re­bel­lion charges in 1983, again on the flim­si­est of ev­i­dence.

But it is not only the bla­tant in­jus­tices that the Mar­coses com­mit­ted that the ex­pe­ri­ence of “Nene” Pi­mentel urges all Filipinos to re­mem­ber. It is also the need for the fair­ness and jus­tice to which ev­ery­one and not only the wealthy and well­con­nected are en­ti­tled.

That im­per­a­tive has never been more ur­gent than to­day, dur­ing the reign of “Koko” Pi­mentel’s un­likely ally, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte.

One of the ironies of th­ese un­cer­tain times is that his party, PDP- La­ban, is a merger of two par­ties — Par­tido Demokratiko Pilipino and Lakas ng Bayan — that were op­posed to the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship that Mr. Duterte is so clum­sily ap­ing.

PDP was founded by “Koko’s” fa­ther “Nene” Pi­mentel, while Lakas ng Bayan was founded by Se­na­tors Benigno “Ni­noy” Aquino, Jr. and Lorenzo Tañada. The two par­ties merged to form PDP-La­ban to op­pose the can­di­dacy of Fer­di­nand Mar­cos dur­ing the snap elec­tions

of 1986, three years af­ter the Mar­cos regime’s as­sas­si­na­tion of Aquino in 1983. The PDPLa­ban’s stan­dard-bearer was the slain se­na­tor’s widow, Co­ra­zon Aquino, whose son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III, was, dur­ing his term, rel­a­tively truer to that party’s le­gacy than its cur­rent lead­er­ship.

PDP-La­ban’s anti-dic­ta­tor­ship ori­gins are hardly in ev­i­dence to­day, its head be­ing Mr. Duterte and its mem­ber­ship list be­ing a ver­i­ta­ble direc­tory of other pro­vin­cial despots, turncoats, and op­por­tunists of ev­ery stripe. Among its now for­got­ten lega­cies is pre­cisely its com­mit­ment to the fair­ness and jus­tice that Pi­mentel was ar­gu­ing in fa­vor of Imelda Mar­cos.

Un­der the Duterte lead­er­ship, the party has be­come iden­ti­fied with tyranny and the en­cour­age­ment of the very opposite of those val­ues. In­stead of jus­tice, what the coun­try is now be­ing sub­jected to is a regime of in­jus­tice per­pe­trated by a league of bu­reau­crat cap­i­tal­ists and their mil­i­tary and po­lice hench­men fo­cused on the de­struc­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the very laws un­der the pro­tec­tion of which, Pi­mentel III was say­ing, Imelda Mar­cos has ev­ery right to seek refuge.

Equal pro­tec­tion of the law is, of course, best ex­pressed in its equal ap­pli­ca­tion. But dur­ing the Duterte regime, it has since be­come ap­par­ent that only the likes of the Mar­coses, the Estradas, the Ar­royos and their kin­dred dy­nas­ties are en­ti­tled to that con­sti­tu­tional right.

Nei­ther fair­ness nor jus­tice is at work when the poor, the pow­er­less, and regime crit­ics and pro­test­ers are ha­rassed and per­se­cuted. They are com­pletely ab­sent when the po­lice and their sur­ro­gate as­sas­sins mur­der chil­dren as well as sus­pected drug users and petty traders, while bil­lions of pe­sos in il­le­gal drugs are smug­gled into the coun­try with the col­lu­sion of Cus­toms per­son­nel.

Nei­ther are those val­ues in ev­i­dence when crit­ics are sum­mar­ily im­pris­oned on the flim­si­est and most ab­surd of charges com­plete with planted ev­i­dence and the scripted tes­ti­mony of the gov­ern­ment agen­cies the regime has mo­bi­lized to si­lence dis­senters.

“Koko” Pi­mentel is ab­so­lutely right when he asks the pub­lic to be fair to Imelda Mar­cos, al­though the po­lice and the courts have been more than that to her. But he could do even bet­ter by re­mind­ing the regime he cur­rently serves that fair­ness and jus­tice are rights to which ev­ery­one else, and not just its cho­sen few, are en­ti­tled. He should be ask­ing the in­jus­tice league, much more than the pub­lic it is still vic­tim­iz­ing, to be just and fair.

LUIS V. TEODORO is on Facebook and Twitter (@luis­teodoro).

The views ex­pressed in Van­tage Point are his own and do not rep­re­sent the views of the Cen­ter for Me­dia Free­dom and Re­spon­si­bil­ity. www.luis­teodoro.com

PDP-La­ban’s anti-dic­ta­tor­ship ori­gins are hardly in ev­i­dence to­day, its head be­ing Mr. Duterte and its mem­ber­ship list be­ing a ver­i­ta­ble direc­tory of other pro­vin­cial despots, turncoats, and op­por­tunists of ev­ery stripe.

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