THE SURRENDEREES AND FUGITIVES
There has been a lot of back patting and congratulatory high fives when a bunch of accused in the PDAF scam came forward to be booked and detained. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the uniformed law enforcement groups was all a picture of contentment including their non uniformed, civilian nay political counterparts. It is as if the surrender is a milestone for criminal justice administration. It merely projects that those who volunteered to be placed under custody of law have the guts to respect the law in whatever form it has been served. The voluntary surrender of the accused virtually gives us the state of a person’s maturity in the face of judicial inquest, plain and simple.
Media had a feast day. Scooping and amplifying warts have been the mark of licentiousness. It is commercially viable and people flock at the headlines. They wanted to project to the world the insidious and criminal profile of those who surrendered as if by publishing opinion and suspicion are evidentiary proofs of their detention. Note that detention does not constitute punishment yet but allowing oneself to be within the jurisdiction of the courts. The impression peddled however is that by detaining the suspects, criminal justice administration has already been served. Not so fast though. There is still a process called hearing and determination of guilt.
Now, how about those who merely ignored legal procedures and skipped the cookoo’s nest? These fugitives are nowhere to be found. They may be somewhere around, thanks for their resources and the ability of those who are supposed to hunt them down, for their vulnerable nature. The fugitives merely reflect how inutile, how incapable, how incompetent our government trackers can be. Up to now, there is no information on the whereabouts of former General Jovito Palparan, former Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr., former Governor Joel Reyes, former Mayor Mario Reyes… They constitute the fly in the ointment so to speak and their disappearance is a disgrace and embarrassment to our legal system.
Labeled “The Butcher” by political activists, Palparant went into hiding in December 2011 when he was ordered arrested by the Regional Trial Court in Malolos, Bulacan province, in connection with the 2006 abduction of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.
The Reyes brothers disappeared in March 2012 after the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa City issued warrants for their arrest in connection with the murder of Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.
Ecleo, on the other hand, went into hiding after he was meted out a 31-year prison sentence for graft by the Sandiganbayan in 2006. In April 2012, a Cebu City court sentenced Ecleo to life imprisonment for the killing of his wife. He remains the object of a nationwide manhunt.
How does the public accept or feel about it? Amidst the surrender of those accused in the PDAF scam, an official was even heard intoning “At least the authorities didn’t have to go to them to pick them up.” This was expressed as if there were no fugitives around; as if the arms of law enforcement are that efficient; as if there is superiority in the face of those who frontally challenge the might of government in dealing with those who dared the criminal justice system. We must appreciate the level of maturity of those who were accused even if we really hated the offense for which they were indicted of. Let us be grateful that somehow there were those who subscribe to the fairness of our criminal justice administration. But let us not be confident to the extent that we would sweep under the rug the pitfalls and weaknesses of our system with respect to bagging those who are at large.
Besides those who would rather hide than be arrested, there are also those who are jailed and even imprisoned who would dart out of freedom and savour the air of free community under disguise or whatever. Life for fugitives and escapees is prone to panic whenever there is a sound of a whistle from a boy scout! These denizens have no peace of mind. They know that in every human community where they would repair, there is betrayal everywhere. And so, they constantly move, and wander every which way, a virtual Abel, who was consigned to meander as fugitive around the world in perpetuity.
In Biblical lore, a fugitive is a cursed person “condemned to perpetual exile; a degraded outcast; the miserable victim of an accusing conscience.” Gen 4:12.
In the final count, there is wisdom in submission.