CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/03 February) — Let’s give a big hand to the Sandigang Bayan for the verdict days ago on two incumbent officials of Sarangani Province. They were found guilty of mulcting their bosses 11 years ago.
Their bosses of course are the people of Sarangani. Amount pilfered: P 475,000 in year 2002.
Although their names are unimportant for our immediate purposes, the officials were identified by MindaNews as Eugenio Alzate and Cornelio Martinez, both provincial board members of Sarangani. Their sentence: indemnification of the amount to the government plus life in prison.
And for jailing them straight away, let’s throw in an extra loud cheer—hooray!—for their prompt dispatch to Bilibid prison in Muntinlupa where they can’t do any more harm, at least for the time being as they appeal the verdict.
Eight other people, mostly former officials, were also pronounced guilty—but they are viewed as lesser mortals now for betraying the public trust. So just forget them. Don’t even mention their names! It’ll only give them free publicity and name-recognition that will get them elected if they manage to get a pardon.
Why so Long?
But even as we hail the anti-graft court for this action, let us bewail how terribly long it took to decide it. Eleven years! And the amount was less than half a million pesos!
How many decades will it take to adjudicate the billions supposedly filched by Tanda, Pogi, and Sexy? How about the P10 billion by Janet?
Seriously now, why does it take so long to decide the guilt or innocence of an accused? Will someone please explain this?
And why do we find it impossible to recover our nation’s plundered wealth from the Marcoses? It is already more than a quarter of a century since EDSA 1986! But we even let them live princely lives and reward them high offices! Why are we subsidizing our society’s predators?
The amount in the case at hand is minuscule, only a fraction of what’s required to be considered a member of the exclusive Plunderer’s Club. What was it in this case that took so long?
If it’s lack of investigators, prosecutors, or judges, why not recruit more? So many lawyers and wannabes are just waiting for the proverbial knock of opportunity at the bar.
If it’s the budget, come on, there are bathtubs full of money around; just ask Janet Lim Napoles—or Butch Abad! If not from PDAF, there’s always DAP. Or what about the sneak amounts just recently inserted into the General Appropriations Act?—ask Jinggoy or Jarius for details.
“Rido”—the barbaric resort to personal vengeance in the Muslim areas—derives mainly from impatience or disbelief about a judicial system that does not satisfy minimum expectations of fairness.
Can nothing really be done to speed up the course of justice in our republic? Can the advocacy groups please focus on this? Clear the way and speed the course of justice, please!
To Rev. Avelino Sitchon and the Sarangani People’s Alliance for Reforms and Good Governance (SPARE-GO), we say: how about it? Can you collaborate with IBP-GenSan/Sarangani and maybe some law schools on a project to review and analyze what went on from the time you filed the case in 2002 to the day the verdict was handed down?
The positive and negative driving forces should be identified, the obstacles and mitigating factors defined. What should civil society initiate including resort to People Power in order to expedite cases? What laws to pass or to amend or to repeal?
Should we try the jury system, even on a trial or pilot basis? There’s a growing nationwide network promoting the jury system on the internet; check it out!
Anyone who takes the maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied” with any degree of credulity ought to address this problem with the highest sense of urgency.
Crime is on the upswing now because of cynicism and people’s very low regard towards our judicial system. It is an indictment against our leaders and the legal profession, this failure to establish an effective system of addressing criminality and injustice.
Shame on them… and more shame on us for our failure to choose better leaders or produce worthy lawmakers!
To the people of Sarangani, for instance: what’s Pacquiao doing in Congress? He should be asked to take at least a minute’s break to denounce and disown the two felons now, as both are reported to be his active promoters.
To civil society in general: it is already long overdue for our society to confront this problem frontally and act decisively! (Manny was former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of the Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of the Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. He heads Gising Barangay Movement as national convenor and president. [email protected])