A tirade

There are numerous television shows and movies that revolve around crimes—tackling topics such as murder, homicide, self-harm, theft, corruption, and terrorism—and one could wonder just how true-to-life these depictions are. I personally have perceived most of these as mere fiction, or at least hoped they were.

But in this day and age, that kind of obliviousness is detrimental; we live in a world where all of these crimes are happening and continue to pervade real communities. To remain unheeding is to remain ignorant and blind to the reality that we are all witnesses to a crime scene.

One could imagine themselves in a crime scene—murder, for example—but they could be in several roles, such as the murder victim and the chief investigator.

Both are alike while being entirely different: alike in the sense that both seek justice, while different in terms of the influence they carry relative to the culprit’s perspective. The murderer holds power over the victim, and expectedly, the chief investigator holds power over the murderer. Moreover, there also is the prosecutor, who conducts the case against the defendant—supposedly on the side of the law with the investigator. This power dynamic is blurred, however, in the case of Filipinos.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines, the country itself has been one big crime scene—public funds misused and stolen; innocent minors slain; the law weaponized against the media; and the poor neglected in nationwide policies.

These gross violations of the law, however, are not traced back to ordinary citizens. These are crimes committed by officers and allies of the national government.

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. was acquitted of plunder last December 7, 2018 despite evidence of allotting P224.5-million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund to bogus non-governmental organizations. Police convicted of the murder of Kian delos Santos in 2017 were only found guilty and imprisoned a year after. More recently, ABS-CBN has continued to grapple with their license renewal despite having, based on legislation, no violations that would warrant a shutdown. Now, the less fortunate are forced to find their own ways to survive the pandemic with minimal to no support from local government units.

However, these overt acts of disobedience to the law are not exclusive to the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Human rights were wholly disregarded during the Martial Law era under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Death penalty was restored during the presidency of Joseph Estrada. Journalists were massacred in Maguindanao by close allies of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Disaster response when typhoon Yolanda ravaged Eastern Visayas in 2013 failed under the term of Benigno Aquino III.

Contrary to our earlier assumptions about a typical crime scene, the situation in the Philippines is markedly different: the investigator possesses no power over the culprit. As it turns out, the prosecutor is only a pawn of the murderer—a powerless placeholder.

We, the citizens of the Philippines, are the murder victims of the government, and the prosecutor is our Constitution. At the same time, we, too, are the chief investigators on this case—yet we are rendered helpless.

While we supposedly hold power over the government in a democratic republic, we are stripped of that authority as the government itself does not acknowledge the law. We try to hold those we have put in power accountable for their crimes, but as we have seen time and again, our actions have bore no fruit.

When the case is taken to court, the chief investigator is just as abandoned by the justice system as the victim, while the murderer is acquitted. Despite sufficient evidence, we cannot put a pin on the culprit, and they are never incriminated with the law serving only as a dust-catching ornament.

An endless cycle of blatant disregard of justice accounts for the murder of not only the citizens of this country but the law as well. The government has placed itself above the very law that we should all be abiding by—supposedly regardless of status, position, or rank—for the pathetic reason of protecting themselves. The people tasked to uphold the law are the ones who bend these rules in their favor.

While we can clamor about this injustice, we cannot and should not stop there. If we choose to still hope for a possible change, we cannot and should not stop there. We have to hold murderers and their allies accountable. We have to ensure that they own up to the responsibility of protecting us. We have to have everyone—including ourselves—respect, enact, and uphold the law and our justice system.

As we all do, the government needs a great reminder that according to Section 1 of Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

Therefore, it is not the people who owe the government. They owe us.

By Ramon Castañeda

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