Saturday, January 10, 2009

Good intentions

I’m having a hard time making heads or tails of the Alabang Boys scandal.
If the allegations are true – and if a review of past decisions on anti-narcotics cases bears this out – it would show in graphic terms the breadth and depth of drug cartels’ reach. If, on the other hand, the charges raised by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officers are baseless, then we may be in for a witch hunt that could last till elections.
Except for the families of the three suspects, who have obvious self-interest at stake (and I won’t begrudge them that), both sides raise the banner of noble causes.
It can tear you apart. I am passionately anti-drugs, having seen too many relatives and friends succumb to narcotics’ evil call. I am also passionately pro-human rights. I rather envy those three young men. Last I looked, even court rulings sometimes aren’t enough to spring suspects from left-leaning or Muslim groups, or anyone considered an enemy of the state. Often, final vindication in the Supreme Court comes after decades of incarceration. Isn’t that the reason for the penalty clause in the Anti-Terror Law and laws providing compensation for miscarriages of justice?
Here then are some questions for all the gentle folk concerned:
1) Since when did prosecutors become so cavalier about the disposition of possibly dangerous criminals? How can State Prosecutor John Resado think it’s okay to ignore a standing mandatory review order, and then let the cops handle the problem of missing suspects should a review overturn prosecutors’ dismissal of a case?
2) Is it SOP for Justice Department officers to ignore the fact that they have a Secretary? Why? Shouldn’t the President just assign someone else with enough energy to oversee everything?
3) How can government lawyers say it’s okay to ignore a Secretary’s resolution (in this case, penned by Simeon Datumanong) because they don’t want to get into trouble? Do they have a paper trail of their attempts to inform their superiors about the lousy, dangerous regulations imposed on them?
4) It’s one thing for Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor to ask why suspects remain held even with a resolution of dismissal; it’s an altogether different story when he breezily allows his secretary to deliver privately-sourced but public interest-bearing documents without personally establishing legitimacy. Have the inmates taken over the hospital?
5) How come Gonzalez, who has chewed officials and enemies for much, much less, doesn’t have it in his heart to even display displeasure towards Verano -- who engaged in manipulation and misrepresentation at his expense?
6) Guys who stage such creative buy-bust operations can surely do entrapment. Does PDEA really want us to believe it does not have the capability to trace calls? Why didn’t it seek help from other law enforcement agencies? Is there no one you can trust in law enforcement? Is the situation that hopeless?
7) If he can bandy names like Joe Tecson (without really verifying if he had the right man on the other end of the line), why can’t Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino name his mistah would-be briber? The mistah’s civilian identity is no excuse; civilians aren’t exempt from the law. Surely, the righteous Major isn’t telling us he has one standard for the world and another for his mistahs?
I will grant Marcelino his sincerity. And I will grant that there are too many specious and suspicious arguments advanced by the DOJ’s lawyers. But I wonder how scrupulous are law enforcers in ensuring that cases are built up properly.
Here’s unsolicited advice for the young Marine officer: You once turned down the Magdalo because you didn’t believe in short cuts. Well, don’t change. There are many, many forms of corruption and not all involve money. Be as disciplined in casework as you are with your morals.
Prosecutors have a job – to green light a case for trial or throw out an indefensible one. After all, they’re the ones who engage in courtroom skirmishes. Even the best prosecutor cannot salvage a shoddy case. To do the latter with regularity, you would have to be working in a dictatorship where laws are an afterthought. And for god’s sake, stop whining about technicalities. Too many autocrats use that same term for civil liberties.
That said, may the force be always with you. And may you find a government prosecutor equal to your zeal.

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