A test of justice in our transactional politics

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

It took quite a long time before the long arm of the law caught up with expelled Negros Oriental lawmaker Arnulfo Teves Jr. in Timor Leste. His arrest last week is further proof that if there's a will, the law can extend far and wide to enforce justice.

This is not to say that Teves is already guilty of the charges against him. Under the Constitution, he is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. It simply means that a court of law has found enough evidence for the charges to proceed to trial. Given the very serious nature of the multiple murder charges, the accused is ordered to remain within the law’s physical reach --in other words, under detention.

Meanwhile, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, leader of the Philippine-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ church, remains free as of this writing. To be clear, no court has issued a warrant for his arrest, at least until such time as the courts, to which the Department of Justice has recommended filing charges of sexual abuse and qualified human trafficking, find probable cause for his arrest and detention.

However, the Senate and House of Representatives have already issued arrest orders against Quiboloy. The order from the Senate stems from Quiboloy’s refusal to testify at the inquiry led by Senator Risa Hontiveros into alleged cases of human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, and violence within Quiboloy’s church.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives issued an arrest warrant against Quiboloy following a contempt citation for his failure to attend any of the six hearings on alleged franchise violations by Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

I mention the cases of Teves and Quiboloy to underline the evident double standards powerful people use in navigating the legal processes in our country. During the presidency of Quiboloy’s closest ally, former president Rodrigo Duterte, SMNI, the TV network associated with Quiboloy’s church, condemned various critics for allegedly skirting the rule of law and defying the Constitution in opposing the government. Similarly, Teves, during his time in Congress was known to be close to the policemen in the province. As a lawmaker, he had also sworn an oath to uphold the rule of law.

Now that Quiboloy and Teves are facing legal scrutiny, all sorts of reasons have been put forward in an apparent attempt to gain sympathy and skirt the legal processes. Previously, they demonstrated faith in these processes, but now they seemingly have none.

Again, we are not discussing the guilt or innocence of the parties involved at this point. We are simply focusing on the legal processes that should apply equally to all Filipinos, without exception.

The bizarre twist in Quiboloy’s case is the kind of support he is receiving from respectable members of the political elite. Senator Cynthia Villar expressed her puzzlement (nagtataka) over all the allegations against Quiboloy, stating that he is a friend and has been good to her family. This, she said, makes her not really believe the allegations against him. Senator Robinhood Padilla defended Quiboloy, arguing against prejudging him as guilty in the committee inquiry.

Their arguments make no sense because no one is seeking to outright condemn or prejudge Quiboloy at this moment. Both Teves and Quiboloy are merely being required to face the legal processes, whether before our legislative bodies or the courts. The justifications we are hearing from some powerful people defending Quiboloy reveal our country’s descent into brazen, transactional “quid pro quo” politics: “If you support me, I’ll support you”, regardless of the rule of law.

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