Is justice truly ‘blind’?
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2018 - 12:00am

Sometimes I catch myself reading the news and wondering if I am in an alternate parallel universe. It’s just mind boggling these days what is happening in the country and how we have all grown so accustomed to the “crazy” that it is now what passes for normal. Have we become so desensitized that we no longer see ludicrous for what it truly is? I hope that’s not the case, but it certainly does seem like it.

Ever since President Duterte began his “war on drugs” there have been numerous questions raised about the integrity and purity of his intentions. This passionate desire of the president’s to rid the country of illegal drugs and reduce crime was the platform on which he was elected after all and we have all seen the bloody outcome of this agenda. However, looking back now – how much has really changed? How much has stayed the same?

There is an expression that says, “the forest was shrinking but the trees kept voting for the axe because its handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them.” In many ways this applies to how the masses felt about President Duterte. He appealed to them in particular because he felt like one of them. He made them feel that their concerns were his concerns and he wanted to change the country for them. He promised he would clean their streets, provide them better tax options, and protect their sovereign lands from those seeking to steal them.

Well, we are deep into the president’s term now and how many of these promises have actually been fulfilled? Are the streets any safer now? With the new tax reform in place are we actually saving or spending more on daily commodities? Are our lands safe or have we just decided to laugh off the “jetski” joke and move on? That seems to be the staple move for Filipinos when disappointment hits – we shrug our shoulders and move on. That should not be the case.

The latest questionable disappointment in a long string of them and a crushing blow to the so-called “war on drugs” is the dismissal of drug trafficking charges against Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim due to a lack of evidence. This is unbelievable to so many people who thought that for once a “big fish” in the drug war was going to be prosecuted. Instead they were disappointed once again by the lack of justice.

It’s the same old story in the Philippines despite the promise of change. Here those who don’t have money or power or influence tend to fall on the sword while those who do get off scot-free. I think that people were hoping that would be different in this case and with this president, but so far they have yet to be proven right. Despite Espinosa being a self-confessed drug dealer, he and Lim were still ostensibly “let go.”

And because of Lim’s known ties to the president coupled with Espinosa’s testimony against De Lima, the Department of Justice has raised more than a few red flags about whether or not the war on drugs is selective. There are a lot of questions to be answered and people have the right to know. After all, blood has been split for much less.

This also raises questions as to the validity of the anti-drug campaign as a whole. While several tiny fish have been captured or worse, this is just a pinprick on the side of the hydra that is still alive and kicking. How can we expect to truly make any changes by just going after the little guys and letting the big manufacturers, importers, and dealers go free. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these head honchos are not going to be stopped by the loss of a few low level lackeys. They’ll simply find other people.

There are many aspects of the Duterte administration I still want to believe in, but it’s getting harder and harder every day. Any war on drugs and illegal activities will automatically be marred by unequal application of the law. This is especially true in the Philippines. It is up to this administration to prove that for once justice is going to be blind and prosecute everyone just the same.

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In a previous column I wrote about how I supported the need to shut down Boracay to allow the island to rehabilitate itself. Now the long-anticipated multi-agency recommendation to temporarily shut down the tourist destination has finally been issued and it’s much worse than people initially thought. The recommendation by the departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Interior and Local Government, and Tourism is for the island to be shut down for a maximum period of one year.

According to the agencies this is the only way to put the sustainable waste disposal infrastructure in place to help the island’s fragile ecosystem get back on its feet after being beaten to a pulp by irresponsible tourism and building for the past decade.

Many people are sad especially as summer approaches but I think that making a sacrifice in the present is really the only way we can preserve the tourist destination for the future. Changes need to be made and at this point it may no longer be possible to go halfway. Full closure might truly be the only option to give the island time to breathe and hopefully cause other tourist destinations to take a good long hard look at how they are handling things to avoid this happening to them in the future.

Unfortunately the downside to this potential progress is the loss of staggering amount of jobs and income for the island this season – especially if the closure does last for the whole recommended year. I feel for those who will be affected, but at the same time if they don’t make changes now the days of their livelihood will also be numbered. Boracay has been in danger of collapsing in on itself for years. Hopefully it’s not to late.

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