The consequences of innocence
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - December 9, 2018 - 2:07am

Perhaps I have a liberal base of friends. The online reactions to the acquittal of Senator Ramon Revilla on charges of plunder were pretty consistent. Shock, dismay, and anger. A collective shaking of heads, strong words against the state of the nation and the judiciary, instant refutation of the court decision. There were even threats to leave the country, fed up with the perceived failure of the justice system.


I didn’t see a single friend convinced of the senator’s innocence. What does that say about the company I’m keeping?


Even former president Aquino had his own take on the verdict, complaining that it left him confused. Well, welcome to the club, Mister President. Most everyone else I know disagree with it, including two other justices of the five-justice tribunal.

As they say, it’s all in the numbers. That was all that Senator Revilla had to convince about his innocence: Three justices. And since this is governed by the rule of the majority, the views of the dissenters count for almost nothing. Except to my friends, who I am sure will locate plenty of ratio decidendi to further fuel their artillery of arguments.

What does that decision say for the rest of the accused? It is telling that fellow-accused senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada attended the promulgation of judgment. Anticipating similar favorable decisions?

What does that say for their minions, who were accused of diverting their senatorial funds to unknown destinations? Frankly, if I were in the minions’ shoes, I would be very, very afraid. Quaking in my Manolo boots, practically.

This verdict is a strong signal that those at the top will meet Mister Scott Free (I am using the new Trump variant, recently introduced by his Twitter account). Then, probably to appease public reaction, those below them will get sentenced for their participation in the plunder. And get stuck with a 124.5-million peso bill, besides. (As my ex-student, now a practicing lawyer, remarked on his social media, what must Gigi Reyes be thinking of now?)

What does that say for the Province of Cavite? Well, Cavite Congressman Strike Revilla, brother of the accused, spoke for his constituents and said they were all very happy and welcomed the decision. (I wonder if he ran a snap poll, or he really has the pulse of his constituents in his palm).

And what does that mean for the forthcoming elections? Well, that means one less slot available for Senate-hopefuls because of course, knowing our country, the senator will be re-elected. The unfortunate state of things is that our voters love movie stars and will vote him again, regardless of the scandals the candidate has been embroiled in. Perhaps, the “not-guilty” verdict will fuel even more votes for the senator than before.

That goes back to a nagging thought that perhaps, not everyone in the country is prepared to exercise the right to vote. The full idealistic vision of democracy may not be suitable for this nation. When the votes are cast by voters based on popularity contests, are we that far away from a primary school election process?

And it is not really their fault - we did provide the voting populace with enough education to read and write. But apparently, not enough to exercise discernment and vision. So is that our collective fault?

Well, the Constitution is being amended. Should this be the opportunity for us to limit the right to vote to those with the capacity to understand the gravity of their decision? Perhaps that way we can transform the exercise into an issues- or platform-based election, rather than personality-based.

Tis the season to take stock.

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