EDITORIAL - Fix-cals
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2014 - 12:00am

He’s innocent unless guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt, based on evidence, by a judicial court. The accusation hurled against Quezon City prosecutor Raul Desembrana, however, is not unusual in this country.

Desembrana was arrested the other day in an entrapment operation set up by the National Bureau of Investigation. Physician Alex Montes had complained that Desembrana was asking for money in exchange for the dismissal of a case filed against the doctor for unjust vexation.

Montes is a member of the so-called Morong 43 – the health workers arrested by the military in 2010 on charges of being communist rebels. A retired military chaplain filed the complaint against Montes for unjust vexation. Desembrana is accused of accepting P80,000 in the entrapment.

That amount is peanuts compared to the billions lawmakers are accused of skimming from their pork barrel, but perhaps catching the small fry will strike some fear into the big fish. As in the other pillars of the criminal justice system, the prosecution service has been tainted by stories of corruption, so much so that “fix-cal” has become a familiar term.

Regardless of the amount Desembrana is accused of accepting, the story is depressingly familiar: the outcome of a complaint is determined not by law but by monetary considerations. The prosecution service is not the only compromised pillar; when people say justice is for sale in this country, they are referring not just to the “fix-cals” but also to the so-called hoodlums in robes – judges and justices.

One cause of the problem has to be the system of appointing prosecutors and magistrates. As in much of the government, appointments to the prosecution service and courts are heavily influenced by politics and personal connections rather than merit-based. Even in the judiciary where there is a Judicial and Bar Council, connections often trump qualifications. It’s not unusual for an appointment or promotion to be made as a political reward, with hardly any regard for competence and personal integrity. With the right connections, prosecutors and judges can even get away with corruption.

In the case of Desembrana, it helped that the intended victim sought help and looks likely to pursue a complaint. The case should encourage a housecleaning in the prosecution service.

ACCUSED CASE DESEMBRANA JUDICIAL AND BAR COUNCIL NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION PHYSICIAN ALEX MONTES PROSECUTION QUEZON CITY RAUL DESEMBRANA SERVICE
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