Selectively implementing the law
CHASING THE WIND - Felipe B. Miranda () - December 9, 2003 - 12:00am
There is nothing more ridiculous than a partial or selective implementation of the law. When the president says that those convicted of kidnapping for ransom (KFR) will be executed but not those convicted of other equally heinous crimes, one may suspect that she is motivated by considerations other than those of justice. Philippine law makes it mandatory that capital punishment be meted to those committing heinous crimes and public officials sworn to uphold and implement the law subvert it in selectively applying it.

Public officials who oppose the penalties mandated by law in the case of heinous crimes must voluntarily disable themselves in the process of interpreting or applying this particular law’s crystal-clear provisions. Without resigning their official positions in most cases, these officials may openly work to have the offensive law modified, amended or repealed. This option is completely in order and those who pursue it within the boundaries of the legal system may rightly claim that they serve the republic with integrity.

However, should their opposition to capital punishment be a matter of principle and they are unable to sidestep the issue of its legal interpretation or application, no avenue except resignation from their official positions is available. An honorable, self-respecting public official will have no problem recognizing this unavoidable necessity and acting in accordance with it.

Rare, however, is the Filipino politician who is driven to act by principled considerations. The notion of necessity that most politicians in this country understand is based on whatever enables them to politically survive or do well. They act only as unavoidable circumstances and organized interests compel them to act.

In the specific case of KFR perpetrators, politicians now call for applying the death penalty because a well-organized political force – those Chinese-Filipinos who have been the pitiful KFR targets across the years – have openly served notice that they will not support candidates for public office who refuse to fully implement the law and its irreversible sanction. As most politicians reckon this sector’s support to be vital for their electoral success, they rush to placate its irate constituency

The Catholic Church’s presumably powerful lobby against capital punishment presents election-minded politicians a problem. Desirous of maintaining the religious group’s support even as they also seek support from the fed-up Chinese-Filipino community, politicians including no less than the president offer their win-win compromise solution. The law will fully be served where KFR convicts are concerned and it will be mercifully ignored where other heinous crime perpetrators are concerned. The Tsinoys are accommodated and the Catholic Church hierarchy is not alienated. One has his cake even as he eats it, too.

Other heinous crime victims – for example, children and women who have been raped by beasts assuming human form – are not assured an equally arduous application of the law as KFR victims. Since they do not have the resources that politically organized Tsinoys are able to bring to bear on namby-pamby and opportunistic officials, they must suffer unrelenting injustice. For these helpless, politically marginalized victims, justice is not simply delayed; it is effectively willfully denied.

A presidential candidate once campaigned with a powerful but poorly appreciated slogan: The law must apply equally to all or it does not apply at all. He lost the 1998 presidential elections and, two presidents later, it is still not clear that Filipinos have learned a critical lesson in democratic governance —- one entrusts the implementation of the law only to those who uncompromisingly observe it.

To do otherwise is to invite tragedy and be its primary victims.

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