BEHIND THE LINES: Law abiding PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 June 2014 13:38

BY BOB JALDON

 

All those living below the poverty line across the river from where my domicile is (Canelar Tambucho) are free men. They’re not felons, just plain law-abiding citizens making a decent living to send their children to school and put food on the table twice a day before the lizards start crawling from the ceiling to the dark corners of their houses at night. Their houses don’t have ceiling fans and they don’t sleep on thick foam mattresses. Their floors are not made of tiles and the walls of their homes are sometimes plastered with hard card boards from garbaged ‘balibayan’ boxes. Their kitchen sinks are made out of trashed big oil cans cut into sizes and hammered together. Their bathrooms don’t have hot and cold shower and they use “tabo” to flush their toilets. The windows of their dwellings are made of “sawali” and the roofs are peppered with holes from rust. They are law-abiding citizens.

Comes now Chief Supt.Reuben Theodore Sindac describing the cells at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame intended for the three indicted senators and their co-accused. A cell measures four meters by eight meters, has a ceiling fan, a bed with foam mattress, a kitchen sink, a bathroom with enclosed shower room and a sliding window with metal grills beside the door.

My good neighbors don’t have the luxury of living the way the eventual VIP detainees will. Yet, they are law-abiding citizens who never had the chance of counting a cool million pesos, unless they strike luck and hit the lotto jackpot. They are people who have to brace up for higher prices of prime commodities such as rice, sugar, cooking oil and garlic. They are persons who never stole, although most of them have begged and borrowed so that their families could exist like humans, not apes. They are law-abiding citizens.

Their children don’t own cars; they wash cars for a living. They go to school without notebooks and reference books, don tattered shirts, pants and dresses and worn out slippers or shoes. It’s so heartening to see them go by on their way to public schools to earn an education and, perhaps, be a senator someday. They weren’t born with a silver spoon and cradled in cozy cribs and beds. But, they are law-abiding citizens. When these children reach the age of voting, they will exercise their right of suffrage. With all the scams and bitterness going on, they will learn good from evil and vote for the right people in office. If they remain good, they will never be jailed because they are law-abiding citizens.

Justice must prevail and the privileged must be jailed the same way ordinary criminals are. Though innocent unless proven guilty, detainees they shall be detainees until the case is closed. Is there a distinction between a detainee and a prisoner? In our criminal justice system, there seems to be. There’s too much compassion and humanitarian gesture for the rich and powerful and none for the powerless. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?