OpinionJustice delayed is justice denied
Justice delayed is justice denied
December 17, 2018
December 17, 2018

After decades of what has seemed to be an armistice between the corrupt abuse of power and the obligation of one to answer for it, it looks like justice has finally taken a step forward.

Just this month, former Prima Donna, (which, ironically, is Italian for “First Lady”) Imelda Marcos, was convicted of not one, not two, but a lofty seven counts of graft. Found guilty for transferring up to $200-million—over ten billion in pesos—to Swiss foundations with her family being listed as the sole beneficiary, the Sandiganbayan summoned the graft offender to court.

The Marcos name, which has become somewhat of a controversial conversation-starter, no doubt has quite a few skeletons in its family closet. Its supporters deny the atrocities committed during the Marcos administration and instead take pride in the excellence the Philippines exhibited during its regime. And its opposers, well…let’s just say they don’t seem to have gotten tired of trying to expose the contents of the said closet.

It seems, though, that the dawn of the day of reckoning has finally come. Whatever one’s stance is on the whole “Marcos-hero-or-no-hero” issue, the execution of the law sheds an indistortable light on the matter. After decades of the law ostensibly standing idly by, the main course of justice is finally being served to the Marcoses.

Or is it?

Is Imelda Marcos being marched into the halls of justice where she will finally answer for a crime that the Philippine court has already found her guilty of committing? Or is the sense of leniency encompassing the case giving her access to some hidden back door leading to an escape?

I had always found myself caught smack in the middle of the whole Marcos pandemonium as I’d consider myself to be standing on neutral ground. But no neutral ground exists in the battle between corrupt power and the Filipino people. Choosing to remain neutral—choosing not to pick a side is basically volunteering to be a casualty of war.

The headlines of the Sandiganbayan’s call for Imelda Marcos’ arrest were almost immediately followed by news of her failure to appear at her hearing and, more surprisingly so, of the slightly-more-than-tolerant stance of key police officials on the arrest warrant issued by the Philippine court. Among the reasons given for this air of consideration among law enforcement officials were, of all things, Imelda Marcos’ old age and womanhood.

Since when does old age serve as cause for a sense of leniency where the execution of the law is concerned? Since when does being a woman merit special consideration even after committing a crime against an entire country? Even if you take the Marcos name, which carries its own baggage, out of the picture—I would still raise the same questions.

The notion that seniority and womanhood warrant a lack of severity where justice is concerned just doesn’t hold water—especially in the case of Imelda Marcos. It completely contradicts the spirit behind all the efforts that have been made towards passing more anti-age and anti-gender discrimination laws. It violates the culture of empowerment we are trying so hard to cultivate in our nation. It creates a breeding ground for inequality and exclusion—and that would only be a step backwards.

On another note, it’s clear to see that the time frame between the actual crime of graft was committed and the warrant of arrest being issued is too wide a gap not to raise speculation on the competency of the Philippine justice system. Where in cases like that of Ricardo Castro, who in 2012, was arrested for stealing a P36 bag of chocolates (the then 79-year old man claimed he forgot to pay for the item because he was preoccupied with thinking about his sick son) on the same day he was convicted of the crime, in that of our former First Lady, it’s taken years for her to be prosecuted.

Why is it that for people like Mr. Castro, the delivery of judgment is quick, while for people in power who are there to serve, it takes way longer than that? This juxtaposition alone speaks volumes about the current state of the Philippine justice system.

Why it’s taken decades for Imelda Marcos to be held accountable for stealing money from the Filipino people is a question I think it’s time we answered. By prolonging the sentence of judgment for a crime, aren’t we enabling the crime?

It’s like they say,“Justice delayed is justice denied.” And I don’t think we can blame it on “Filipino time.”

At least, not in this case.

No pun intended.