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Are they dead yet?

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2017 - 4:00pm

It’s about time; they had it coming.

Those were two common reactions I heard yesterday to news that key members of Ozamiz City’s warlords, the Parojinog clan, had been killed and others arrested in pre-dawn raids by members of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Like the late mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog was also on President Duterte’s list of narco politicians. But the notoriety of Espinosa and his son Rolando Jr. or Kerwin pales in comparison with that of the Ozamiz warlords.

The Parojinogs started out as the core group of the government-backed anti-communist Kuratong Baleleng vigilantes. The group refused to be dismantled and disarmed after the insurgency appeared to have been neutralized in Ozamiz. Police said the Kuratong Baleleng remade itself into one of the nation’s top criminal gangs, engaging in bank robbery, kidnapping, illegal gambling and drug trafficking.

Later, the Parojinogs went legit, apparently laundering crime proceeds to enter politics, and reportedly offering the gang’s special services to other politicians who wanted to outsource dirty business.

As the Parojinogs took control of Ozamiz, the clan seemed invincible.

Until Rodrigo Duterte came along.

*      *      *

Ozamiz residents reportedly regard the clan members as local Robin Hoods (or maybe people are scared witless to say otherwise), so there might be some mourning in the city for the slain Parojinogs.

Outside the city, however, a common reaction to the deaths is, why did it take so long?

And for those who survived the raid and were taken in, the question being asked is, are they dead yet?

That’s also a question I’m increasingly hearing each time there’s a report of a child being raped and then killed, or a family being massacred.

As I wrote recently, rapist-killers especially of children don’t live long in this country. It was true when I was a crime reporter fresh out of journalism school many moons ago, and it clearly still remains true in the time of Dirty Rody.

Obviously the swift retribution hasn’t deterred people from committing the heinous crime. Maybe subconsciously, child rapists and killers have a death wish. From the unspoken public approval of the suspects’ deaths, however, you can sense that people are happy not so much about the deterrent impact of the Pinoy version of capital punishment but about the certainty of having one less psycho roaming the streets. The common reaction is good riddance.

For that matter, there’s been a pretty muted public outcry against President Duterte’s order for government forces to take no prisoners in the war against Maute terrorists in Marawi.

And there are people who agree with Duterte when he mumbles in half-jest, in defense of his order, that jails in Marawi have been destroyed, so where can you put the Mautes? Where there’s jail room to squeeze in terror suspects, he said, “pakakainin mo pa iyan” – they would still have to be fed by the state. Why waste precious resources?

Dirty Rody failed to meet his own six-month deadline to curb criminality and the drug menace. But he has provided a quick, Band-Aid fix to our chronically dysfunctional criminal justice system.

*      *      *

Just consider the reactions to the killings of the three “persons of interest” in the rape of that woman and her daughter who were then repeatedly stabbed to death together with the daughter’s three children in Bulacan.

The principal suspect in the rape and killing of a Samal beauty contestant was shot dead by police who said he managed to loosen his handcuffs and tried to grab the gun of his police escort.

Another man arrested for the rape and killing of an eight-year-old girl in Nueva Ecija also managed, while in handcuffs, to grab his police escort’s gun and shoot himself in the head.

Perhaps it’s no longer SOP to handcuff suspects behind their backs. But even if the wrists are bound in front, many people for sure know the special acrobatic skills required for a handcuffed person to grab a cop’s gun to commit suicide.

The police Internal Affairs Service is reportedly conducting an investigation on the “suicide.” After the probe, the cops involved might find themselves in line for promotion, just like Supt. Marvin Marcos and his CIDG team.

*      *      *

People have felt angry, frustrated and helpless for a long time about the weakness of the justice system. People also feel unsafe.

That handcuffed suspect who allegedly committed suicide right inside the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame had been paroled in 2014 after serving eight years for qualified theft at the Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan. Duterte’s brand of justice guarantees that such individuals will never be back in the streets.

What happened to rehabilitation, the objective of modern penology? What happened to compassion, to the idea of every person deserving a second chance? Well, that suspected child rapist-killer botched his second chance big time.

Anyone who has ever felt mad as hell with our justice system probably voted for Duterte last year, or is now cheering on the killings of suspected criminals.

I don’t know if the judiciary will ever be able to do its part in putting an end to this orgy of deadly violence. I’m not sure if members of the judiciary even realize how critical their role is in ending public tolerance for this killing spree.

As long as people feel that the justice system is broken, there will always be strong support for this ruthless, take-no-prisoners approach to threats to society.

One day the nation is going to regret these short cuts to law enforcement. For now, however, in our imperfect society, people think this is the closest thing we can have to swift justice.

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