A drop of blood in the bucket

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Solving the Percy Lapid-Jun Villamor double murder/contract killing is merely a drop in the bucket, albeit two drops in a bucket full of blood.

Many people thought that once the DOJ-PNP-NBI completed their work, solved the crimes and charged the guilty parties, there would be cheers all around or at the very least a day or two of praise from the media and the public. In fact, a current senator reportedly posted a message on his Twitter account suggesting that now that the government solved the Percy Lapid case, the media should in return dedicate a lot of time or space to make the matter known to the world and recognize or congratulate the DOJ-PNP-NBI. That did not happen and here is why:

First of all, the senator seems to have lost sight of the fact that it is the members of the media who, for many decades, have been harassed, attacked, sued and regularly killed, several of them in their very homes or in front of their spouse or children. Aside from Percy Lapid, there are scores of independent broadcasters, block-timers, reporters and journalists in many provinces who were executed in the very same manner as Lapid but whose killers and their masterminds have not been found or arrested.

Even before the senator got into politics, many years ago there has been a cry for the decriminalization of libel but legislators refuse to do so because they use it like an axe hanging over the heads of journalists, reminding them that libel is a very inconvenient and career-ending instrument of the corrupt, the criminal and the unjust against the media.

Yes, the DOJ, DILG, PNP and NBI deserve commendations for solving the double contract killing per se, but in the big picture of reality, one does not solicit praise for something that happens to be your job and responsibility, especially when you are “lousy” at doing it.

At best, the recognition would have to be muted because the fact of the matter is that it was the media that incessantly covered the killing of Lapid and Villamor and this created the pressure that pushed the investigations faster and further than ordinarily would have happened. If Percy Lapid had not been a member of an established media group based in Metro Manila, chances are his murder and that of Jun Villamor would remain unsolved to this very hour. In light of the ugly record of the Philippines with the UNHRC and the International Criminal Court, this contract killing of a journalist in the National Capitol Region or Metro Manila simply made the stain of shame too big to ignore.

Instead of bringing relief and appreciation for our justice system, many people and groups were actually reminded of the fact that there are so many controversial UNSOLVED murders from Aparri to Jolo. According to a Google search, there were 32 members of media who were killed in the Maguindanao massacre. That gained international prominence because the murders were so brutal, political and done with outright impunity.

The number reminds us of another group of victims totaling to 34 or 36 who were bundled by “security forces” and probable members or ex-members of the PNP, according to Senator Bato dela Rosa. That group, of course, are the missing sabungeros, whose murder the Senate actually investigated and exposed a couple of active duty policemen as suspects, as well as the level of corruption and impunity among online sabong operators, LGUs and the police. And then they stopped. WHY?

Unfortunately, there are double standards in the Philippine social and justice systems. The 34 to 36 missing sabungeros were labeled as “game fixers” or perennial con artists coming from provincial towns or far flung barangays. They didn’t have money or relatives that can reach out to the DOJ secretary or the DILG secretary to put out a multimillion-peso reward. The very poverty that drove them to becoming alleged con men or fight fixers is now the same reason why their families and their children will never see their bodies and why they will never get justice.

Whether or not officials in the NBI or the PNP have been corrupted or dissuaded from further investigating the once controversial case, it is all up to the DILG and the DOJ secretaries to determine, but it is a sad commentary when our law enforcement agencies can’t get leads, find 34 missing bodies or get confessions from those already implicated. How can we praise and commend them for a “job well done” when most of the time they have not done their jobs?

A friend recently told me a real life story that may be a fitting reminder to those who would look the other way. A former  contractor was appointed to the board of a government office and people noticed that he refused to accept bribes or special gifts from other contractors. One day my friend asked him what his reason was. The former contractor said that during his days of corrupting government officials, he had the very disturbing experience of visiting all the bribe takers one by one during their individual hospital stay. Each and every one of them who were known to be bribe takers had ended up with cancer and landed in hospitals. From then on, the contractor gave up the business, took a simple job and helped reform the system from within.

As far as justice is concerned, God cannot be mocked. Please read 2 Samuel in the Bible beginning with King David committing rape, murder and then ends up losing a child, a son raping his daughter and another son killing the rapist brother, then another son chasing David out of his own kingdom and defiling his concubines in plain sight. You will reap what you sow.

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