Tuesday, April 13, 2021

We are a society of laws, not ‘karma’ 

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I’m neither a fan of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV nor Sen. Leila de Lima. In my estimation, these two should not have been elected to government office, or any political office for that matter.

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I have a combination of reasons. Let’s talk first of Sen. Trillanes. It’s not so much his rebellion per se but that he launched a rebellion inside a posh hotel. I find it not only extremely odd but absurd, much too laughable and well-nigh bordering on the ridiculous.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see the Supremo Andres Bonifacio lolling at The Peninsula lobby sipping his glass of Ameretto Sour while instructing his troops to topple the throne of the Spanish king. That Sen. Trillanes did this twice—at the Oakwood in 2003 and The Manila Peninsula in 2007—makes me anxious about his sanity.

Sen. Leila de Lima wasn’t exactly your friendly-neighborhood human rights defender either. I couldn’t help but wonder why someone who’d sit as chief of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (appointed by then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) would, as head of the Justice Department under ex-Pres. Noynoy Aquino, would openly—and without second thoughts—say she would rather side with the “rights of the state” than the rights of the individual.

While I wouldn’t go out of my way to deconstruct the Department of Justice (DOJ) Circular No. 41 (which placed Arroyo under the government watchlist) and the petition of Arroyo against it, as I am not a member of the court, it should send a chill down our spine when one’s idea of justice puts the presumed rights of the state above the rights of the individual.

With the arrest of Sen. de Lima on 24 Feb. 2017 and the subsequent arrest of Sen. Trillanes last week, those loyal to Pres. Duterte said these were nothing but a clear case of “karma.” It’s as if poetic justice had become the ultimate rationalization for the capture and incarceration of the two senators who, in the words of those in the opposition, are the voices of dissent.

“They had it coming,” people shout. This, above all, should give us pause.

I am all for arguing the cases for and against the two beleaguered senators. A thorough and intelligent discussion of the facts helps in establishing a healthy society of thinking individuals. I even subscribe to indulging in some criticism from both sides, even sarcasm and mockery, as it is an individual’s duty to be creative in calling out errors in both government and society.

Erin Tañada, former deputy house speaker and author of the Magdalo Amnesty Resolution in the 15th Congress, argues that the Duterte administration is resurrecting a dead issue—a “rotten corpse,” he said—with the arrest of Sen. Trillanes.

“The soul of the crimes of rebellion, mutiny, and other crimes that Sen. Trillanes and the Oakwood Mutineers were charged with, is betrayal of the national interest. But to my mind, the problems they raised by engaging in those actions were already brought before the public, and the people appear to have sympathized and given their approval to those actions by voting Sen. Trillanes into the Senate, not just once but twice—the first time while Sen. Trillanes was actually still in jail.”

Tañada further explained: “From a legal standpoint also, the grant of amnesty and the resulting dismissal of the case for rebellion against Sen. Trillanes had long attained finality. In layman’s terms, this issue has been dead and buried for more than a decade. Are we going to keep resurrecting matters we already settled? How far are we willing to go? It seems unfair to turn up just one grave—perhaps we dig up amnesty grants to the other Magdalo soldiers, including Rep. Alejano and Mr. Faeldon? What about Senator Honasan, Chairman Lim, General Galvez and Mr. Querubin? And what about members of the MNLF and the MILF, the NPA and the NDF?”

Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque, of course, was quick to deny any allegation on their part of “singling out” Trillanes.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Roque said, “The President was firm in Israel that he will allow the civilian court, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), to decide on the matter of issuing the warrant of arrest. And now that the RTC has issued it, we’re now hoping that Senator Trillanes will likewise honor the order of the said court. We have to abide by the rule of law. We abided by it, we expect the Senator to do nothing less” (http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2018/09/25/roque-trillanes-follow-rule-of-law-arrest-warrant.html).

Some of Trillanes’ colleagues in the Senate immediately showed their support. In the same report by CNN Philippines, Sen. Grace Poe said, “All of us are sympathetic to our colleague. On the other hand, it’s good that there’s a chance for him to post bail at this time […] When you receive a document, particularly a government contract or a government amnesty, then you should have full confidence that since it has the backing of Congress, that it is a document that will be respected.”

Asked to comment on the said arrest, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said, “On his person it will be very inconvenient for Sen. Trillanes. He has been through harder times. We wish he could overcome this but we simply have to enforce the rule of law.”

Sen. Trillanes’ bail was set at P200,000.

What is the rule of law? Surely it is not the rule of “karma” or “poetic justice.” By definition, karma is an effect from a cause which leads to destiny or fate. In Hinduism and Buddhism, karma means the sum of a person’s life determining his future existences (plural).

By these definitions alone, society would be hard-pressed at sustaining a just society if we think in terms of karma as an acceptable premise to condemn someone off-hand.

No, I am not siding with Roque and Esperon’s claim that the arrest of Trillanes is based on the rule of law, and thus it should be believed without question. Philippine politics is a muddle of mud and excrement, a confusion of antithetical claims which serve political interests.

What I am here proposing is that we study these claims further, even dig into the convoluted world of Philippine laws if only to grasp what is happening right under our noses. Our right to speak for or against the issues should be built not on ignorance, but a thorough examination of the matter.

We cannot use karma to justify the condemnation leveled on people—whoever they are and whatever they may have done. Humanity did not come this far to think with their toes. G

 

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