UNDERSTANDING A CRIME WITHOUT A CRIMINAL
There was the celebrated issue of whether to display in Central Bank Museum the confiscated jewelries of former first lady (now Congresswoman) Imelda Marcos. The pros and cons went on their usual argumentation on its wisdom or folly. The point however is that if at all government accedes to display the stolen jewelries to remind the world about the country’s kleptocratic past, there might arise a greater issue that would haunt us further. If the precious trinkets were indeed products of a crime, how come there were no criminals haled, prosecuted, made to answer and convicted.
There was even a recent, not beyond memory recall but has been swept under the bureaucratic rug, the case of Comelec’s Mega Pacific scam. The then Ombudsman resolved that indeed there was a crime committed but it failed to name those responsible for it. Findings: an offense was committed but no offender noted.
In the Penitentiary, a seasoned prison officer or any veteran correctional researcher would readily offer instances when they would be able to identify prisoners serving time for crimes they have not committed. In this case, it is a contrary view almost related to the first issue but with a twist. There was an offender but he was serving a crime he never committed at all. Once, there was a rumble inside the cell block the cause of which was unsettling. The inmate serving time discovered to his dismay that his cell mate was actually the done who committed the offense for which he was made to account. The only consolation that inveigle the minds of those affected by this legal phenomenon ( or negligence) is the belief that while they were imprisoned for something they have not done, they were nonetheless resigned at the thought that they were there to suffer because they have committed something wrong in the past, whatever it is.
It is however different when an injustice is committed and no one is held responsible. We have heard of cases where a lowly government clerk would be detained and subsequently sentenced for a number of years for submitting a falsified daily time record; and in some instances, we would also be informed that there are those despite overwhelming evidences could still leave the country unhampered. There are crimes and more on the drawing table of the legislature. And there are criminals who despite the glaring guilt surrounding their cases, it would not stick and mature into a conviction.
In this country, there is indeed a crime without a criminal. Or seemingly to that effect if we take recent cases as guide. Yes, there are suspects, plenty of them but suspicion are only a figment if not a fictional object at times conjured to appease public perception. After a while, the suspicion fizzles out including the suspect. Then back to where it began—a quest for the mysterious offender.
Actually, everyone knows more than anybody that crimes are, using evidentiary and related proofs, committed by criminals. It is a basic element of reality. But while our criminal justice administration examines the crime, it relegates to a corner a significant period in identifying the offender, although the latter has been determined already ahead from the offense. There are numerous safeguards, as a matter of fact, a surfeit of legal protective mechanisms, to defend the suspect from any form of injustice to the detriment of finding cause to reach the final ground for justice. Result: crime without a criminal.