Slow pace of justice
This holiday season may have a special meaning for convicted murderer Rolito Go and the family of the victim of his road rage in 1991, Eldon Maguan.
After serving 20 years and eight months in prison for the young man’s killing, Go was set free by the Supreme Court early this month. He regained his freedom as he battled stage-four colon cancer.
Although happy about being able to spend Christmas again with his family as a free man, Go expressed remorse over his crime. Saying he had suffered enough, he sought forgiveness from the family of the man he killed in the course of a traffic altercation.
Speaking through their lawyer, the Maguans said they will no longer take further legal action to reverse the court’s ruling because justice has been served in their loved one’s death.
Go’s release and the acknowledgment of the Maguans that sufficient retribution has been made may (finally) put closure to the case.
In a manner of speaking, the Maguans are fortunate that the person who cut short the life of their kin was arrested, tried in court and imprisoned.
It helped that they had the resources that enabled them to engage the services of competent lawyers who saw to it that Go received the punishment he deserved for the crime he committed. This factor, plus media attention on the case, made the wheels of justice move (no matter how slowly) and enabled the Maguans to get justice for Eldon.
The same “luck” is not enjoyed by countless Filipinos of modest means who are also victims of heinous crimes. They have to depend on the initiative and efforts of overburdened and underequipped police officers to arrest the responsible parties and gather the required evidence.
Once the case is filed in court, they have to rely on the prosecutors to prepare the legal strategy to prove the guilt of the accused. But with their hands full with other cases, not to mention various administrative obligations, the prosecutors cannot be expected to handle the case with the dedication and enthusiasm of well-paid private lawyers.
With postponements and dilatory tactics by the opposing lawyers, including a backlog of court cases, it is not unusual for criminal cases to take from three to five years before they are decided by the lower courts.
If the accused is convicted, another two to three years is added to the judicial process because the decision will most likely be appealed by the losing party to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
While awaiting the final resolution of the case, and if the accused happens to be moneyed or politically influential, he or she would probably be released on bail and therefore able to conveniently plot the moves to gain acquittal or have his or her crime downgraded.
In spite of the moves taken by the high court to speed up the judicial process, the wheels of justice in the country continue to grind exceedingly slow. To aggravate matters, legal services do not come cheap, and quality is directly proportional to the amount paid in exchange.
Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that some crime victims choose to take the law into their hands to seek redress for their grievances. Or they simply suffer in silence and let the crime go unpunished, which, in the process, indirectly encourages the commission of more crimes.
This attitude of “resigned acceptance” has, in recent days, been prevalent among the poor and underprivileged members of our society who have found themselves at the short end of the administration’s intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
When their kin who are suspected of being drug users or pushers are killed by police officers for allegedly resisting arrest or putting up a fight in a buy-bust operation, they can only make muted protests and resign themselves to the fact that it would be futile to file charges against the police officers involved.
And so the cycle of violence in the name of eliminating the country’s drug problem continues unabated.
Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.
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