Answering for violating the law PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 August 2014 13:05

By REMEDIOS F. MARMOLEÑO

 

I had occasion recently to exchange thoughts with a city official and our topic was the need for consistent respect for  rules and regulations and defined protocol  as these apply to all citizens regardless of their rank in the government or their social status.

Mention was made of efforts to shield a relative of a national official who is a suspect in a killing. The efforts to circumvent the justice procedure included  inventing a story to as to mislead those doing the investigation.

This is not really surprising. Strong family bonds are characteristic of Asian culture and this can lead family supporters to tamper with the evidence, perjure themselves as to the circumstances surrounding the crime, threaten with harm or bribing directly those who are conducting the investigation just to save the family member from accounting for his/her action.  If this is coupled with  weak investigative skills or almost-absent forensic capabilities and the ever-present deference we have towards people with official positions, the criminal justice system can really be bogged down.

This is most certainly not a simple problem, not a case of black or white situation. But if we do not address this problem, from the legal and social perspectives, then this will surely be the way to lawlessness in our society.

I am reminded of  a story from many years ago. A young man in an American village took his rifle and went hunting in the off season. He shot a wild turkey and joyfully brought it home for the family to eat. The family was poor and meat was not a regular fare at their table. But the mother, knowing it was the off season for hunting, personally brought the young man to the police station to report him and make him submit to the punishment for his action. Is this something that a Filipino family from our present time would do to someone who is a loved member of the family?

That is not an easy question to answer. However, if  what the mother did is not done, what message is picked up by the young in the family?

Let us put this situation in our present context in the Philippines. There are clear laws in our country that cover crimes such as those for which the PDAF scammers have been charged. The law provides for such things as where they should be  imprisoned while the trial takes place, how long they should serve sentence if found guilty, and other details. What would be the impact on the members of the charged individuals’ family members, especially the young ones, if these legal provisions are not followed simply because the individuals involved are rich and powerful?

We don’t have to be criminals to break the law. Violating traffic laws or other minor ordinance is commonly happening and the people involved are on the whole upright citizens. But when they use their official positions or social standing so as not to account for their action that is simply something else. And when they are allowed to get away with it that is even worse.