We should not commit injustice when administering justice
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-08-08

The recent vivid television videos of Ivan Padilla, leader of the notorious Ivan Padilla Gang, and Legacy scam principal suspect Celso de los Angeles raise serious issues over the manner we administer justice in our country.

Ivan Padilla was shown on TV video waiting to be transported to a medical facility for what proved to be fatal injuries. He was reported to have sustained a head wound but the autopsy claimed that he died from asphyxiation because of a blunt instrument that impacted on Padilla’s throat. The question that arose from the asphyxiation finding was this — did the impact come from a car crash or an instrument that was thrust on his throat on the way to the hospital?

The news report called to task the police for having taken an hour to bring Padilla to the Makati City Hospital. The original report said that Padilla died an hour after he reached the hospital. Another report claimed that Padilla died on the way to the hospital. The conflicting reports fuel public suspicion of a police rubout.

What caused public suspicion that Padilla was eliminated by the police is that he was still able to talk with the correspondent of ABS-CBN. Perhaps, that was also the reason why the police saw no urgency in rushing Padilla to the hospital. If so, then it is unacceptable. Anybody with a gunshot wound to the head must be rushed to the nearest competent medical facility that can address the injury.

In the case of Celso de los Angeles, he was ordered by a Regional Trial Court Judge to be arrested and jailed. Celso de los Angeles had been reported to be afflicted with throat cancer and he certainly looks like he is fighting the Big C. He had lost considerable weight and had two tubes stuck to his body — one tube on his neck and the other on his belly.

A survivor of many life threatening medical dramas, your Chair Wrecker is experienced enough to say that anybody with tubes stuck through his body, especially a person with two injected tubes, should be under hospital arrest and should not be confined in a jail cell. This is especially true when it comes to our jail cells where healthy prisoners can easily contract an infectious disease.

If Celso de los Angeles is to be brought to a penal facility, then he should at least be confined in an infirmary and not a jail cell where he can easily pick up a deadly infection through those injected tubes. In fact, even in a hospital, doctors want to remove these injected tubes at the soonest possible time because of the risk of deadly infection.

This is not to say that we must be soft in imposing justice. On the contrary, we must ruthlessly impose justice and eliminate the double standard of justice which is practiced here. However, the process of administering justice should not be undertaken to the point that we lose our humanity. We can mete out justice without having to be mean, brutal, inconsiderate, unkind and cruel.

After having been found guilty, the convicted criminals certainly deserve to suffer the prescribed penalty of the Court of Law. It is only after they have been convicted can they be subjected to punishment — and it can only be the punishment which has been prescribed by the Court of Law.

Too often we see the violation of the rights of persons who are still categorized as suspects — people who are presumed innocent until the Court of Law hands a guilty verdict after due process had been followed. The police have no business parading arrested suspects in front of media just to demonstrate that they have done their job. How do you think suspects will feel (not to mention their loved ones) when presented on national television after having been compelled to wear that all too familiar orange colored prison T-shirt and with the government officials pointing an accusing finger at them as if already convicted of the crime?

To begin with, just how reliable is our justice system? How many times have suspects been released by the Courts after having been determined that they were victims of a police frame up or an honest mistake? Do you think that a person who has already been presented as a “criminal” on national television can ever completely remove the stigma of the unfair tag? Won’t some people think that the released prisoner just managed to get off on a technicality but was really guilty? Will that person really be able to ever regain normalcy in life?

In the rush to administer justice, society must be careful not to be unjust. Thus, the dictum of the law is that it is better to allow several guilty persons to go free than to convict one innocent person. God’s justice, if not karma, will certainly confront the person who escapes the arm of the law, but how does society really restore a smashed life when an innocent person is unjustly convicted?

When your Chair Wrecker was still the RPN-9 CEO from 1989 to 1992, we aired on post primetime an Australian drama series which was set in a women’s correctional. We received feedback from the viewers that they liked the stories of the various episodes but they found the situation somewhat unrealistic.

What they found unrealistic was that the correctional looked more like an upper class women’s dormitory here. The setting of the drama series contrasted with their image of what a prison is. However, in Australia where it was set — a correctional is really organized and constructed that way.

It is quite ironic that in Australia where a prison term would look like a state sponsored free board and lodging — there is less crime incidence and a greater respect for the law. Over here, there is everything to fear about being incarcerated and yet we suffer from a high crime index and some of the most heinous crimes too. There could be a precious lesson there.

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