Widening gap of justice, abuse of presidential pardons, & the poor who are left in jail

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It has been said that about 3 out of 4 prisoners in the Philippines are victims of judicial errors Many of them are poor and vulnerable. They are forced to admit guilt so that they can move to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) where food and living conditions are better than the crowded jails in the country. Poor prisoners in other penal colonies languish longer and are treated badly during incarceration than their rich counterparts, making the public believe justice in the country is a farce.

“Inmates are dying in our city jails at an alarming rate. They are suffering from boils, tuberculosis, chicken pox and other simple but highly communicable diseases. In the Quezon City Jail alone, there are two to five deaths per month. The sad fact is that they are dying before being sentenced.” —Raymond Narag (ex-prisoner)

The widening gap of justice truly exists in the country, but almost no one complains about it. In this backdrop Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo commuted the two life terms of Romeo Jalosjos for raping an 11 year old girl in 1996. For his horrible crime which include lascivious acts, the Zamboanga del Norte congressman who shows no remose, enjoyed extensive prison privileges while in jail for only 13 years. Jalosjos put his money and influence to full use—-building a tennis court, a gym, and bakery in the NBP.

These “benevolent actions” by Jalosjos which led to the shortening of his prison stay can’t escape the scrutiny of Emmi de Jesus, secretary-general of the militant women-group Gabriela, who sees gross errors in how justice is carried out. De Jesus who believes Jalosjos’ pardon is a payback to the political help given to Pres. Arroyo said:

“Marso ngayon ano, supposedly Buwan ng Kababaihan. Mukhang ito yung mockery of justice na binibigay ni Ginang Arroyo. Walang remorse, walang pag-amin sa kasalanan niya (Jalojos). Paano na yung mga kababaihan na humihingi ng katarungan na ngayon ay vulnerable sa various forms of violence?” .

[Jalosjos’ release, which happens this Women’s Month, seemed to be a mockery of justice by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (Convicted rapist) neither showed remorse nor admission of guilt. What about the welfare of the women who are vulnerable to various forms of violence?]—GMA TV News (03/19/09, Dedace, SM)

Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III is alarmed by President Arroyo‘s exercise of presidential clemency which leads to more rich and powerful inmates being set free. Palawan Representative Abraham Mitra also airs the same concern when he urged Arroyo to use executive pardon “judiciously and carefully.”

But politics and favor-peddling have a lot to do with these kinds of decision. It is easy to understand that a prisoner who donates infrastructures in a prison compound may have motives beyond being altruistic. Special treatment is one thing that rich detainees can work on so they get protection from their friends in the system. It’s one of the easiest ways to cultivate influence and get the graces of prison officials.

After a tedious and costly court battle that eventually convicted Pres. Joseph Estrada of plunder, Arroyo wasted no time in pardoning the felon—a decision that continues to divide and hurt the entire nation. Estrada didn’t serve in a traditional jail, but in a well-furnished comfortable seclusion.

In total disregard of the gravity of the crime and the unresolved questions related to the Ninoy Aquino-Rolando double murder case, Gloria freed the 10 remaining military men convicted of the airport murders. Since 1983, few Filipinos took genuine heart on the significance of Ninoy’s death, ignoring the loss and suffering of the country under Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. Like Jalosjos and Estrada, the 10 convicts in Ninoy’s assassination never expressed guilt or remorse— basic requisites of pardon.

Mostly left in the crowded prisons are the poor and those who have no influence in lording over the weaknesses of the corrupt system. Many are young and defenseless. Filipinos who disdain the unpopular president can only express their cynicism and apathy towards the poor state of the penitentiary. They feel they can’t do anything about the injustice that goes on there. (Phtoto Credit: Suntoksabuwan; planetradio x 2) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “90% of RP crimes are solved in less than 1 year: a lie that can make you cry?” Posted by mesiamd at 12/19/2008; “Pardon and (In)justice: Ninoy’s killers freed” Posted by mesiamd at 3/05/2009

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