Misappropriating justice: Taking the law into our hands is never an answer | Inquirer Opinion

Misappropriating justice: Taking the law into our hands is never an answer

/ 05:00 AM August 18, 2022

“We are a government of laws, not of men.”

Associate Justice George Malcolm misattributed this adage when he wrote a Supreme Court decision back in 1927. Justice Malcolm thought he was quoting Thomas Jefferson when it was actually John Adams who said that. And even then, Adams merely borrowed this idea from James Harrington.


But before we lose ourselves with names, let’s think about the word misattributed. You know what else was recently misattributed?

Justice was misattributed.


Last month, three people were killed and a student was wounded. The perpetrator was caught, and a community was shocked to its core. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion was cut short by several gunshots.

And then the social media posts came.

Ideally, in this society, we put murderers behind bars and the criminal act is condemned. But social media paints a more nuanced picture. I have read people posting comments online arguing in favor of the murder. Others went as far as to congratulate the perpetrator. Why? Because the justice system failed to prosecute accusations of drug trade?

When this incident was reported, there should have been doubts that vigilante justice was the only angle for this murder. Regardless of the murderer’s social media following or his online content, an inquisitive mind would ask whether another angle is possible. And, as it turned out, there was. The murderer had his business closed years ago for not having a mayor’s permit. Guess who was the mayor then? The bullet-ridden woman lying on the Areté floor.

Nonetheless, people sang praises to the murderer. Did they ever ponder on the lives of the other casualties brought about by this brand of justice? No, they did not. Are all four bullet-ridden victims guilty of the same crime? No, they are not.

But did it matter? No. It did not. The bloodlust was satiated. That is all that matters.

We are rotting. And it is because of how we do politics. This culture of self-righteousness, blind loyalty to personalities, and absolutist approach to politics has betrayed our responsibility to have open communications with people who have different views. We have seen these things from both sides, and it has contributed to the toxicity surrounding the way we discuss politics in our day-to-day lives. We are morally complicit in the demise of political maturity in this country, and we should own up to that.


So now, what can we do?

Let’s remember this: At the end of the day, we share the same country. We live in the same society. And we share the same laws. The law applies to everyone, and everyone should respect that. Whether that be laws on criminal procedure when it comes to alleged drug lords, or election laws when it comes to who won the last elections.

The problems we face may not be always black and white. There are many ways to look at the issues we face, but we must work within the parameters of the law to make the most out of whatever solutions we come up with. And if we ever feel that the law is not enough, there are still ways to address its inadequacy. That is the role of civil society in a democracy.

Taking the law into our hands is never an answer in this society. This should be shunned and condemned.

And, for the sake of delicadeza, tragedies should not be used for spewing personality-based propaganda.

Jerome Napoleon T. Gonzales,
Dasmariñas, Cavite
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