Enablers of impunity (2) | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Enablers of impunity (2)

It is often said that the arm of the law is long. But it will finally reach you when you can no longer depend on people to cover for you; when you run out of people to justify or keep silent about serious or heinous infractions you have committed. In other words, when there are no more people or structures that will enable impunity, that long arm of the law will finally get you.

This is what happened to Alex Murdaugh, scion of the most influential and powerful legal family in Low Country, South Carolina, US, last March 3, 2023. The embattled lawyer was sentenced to life imprisonment without the privilege of parole, for the grisly murders of his wife Maggie, 52, and his son Paul, 22, in 2021.


For more than 80 years, five generations of the Murdaugh family had been enjoying a life of privilege and being impervious to being arrested for many infractions of the law that its members have committed. In a recent documentary on the Murdaugh murders, one informant described how this influential family of lawyers, for over five generations, have become “the law, and even above the law” in their hometown.

These were made possible through many generations of enablers who chose to keep quiet in the midst of the many irregularities that members of the powerful Murdaugh family were believed to have committed. The Murdaugh family was running their county as if they lorded over its governance, legal, and even criminal justice systems.


A family’s control of the judicial process is a manifestation of impunity among the rich and powerful in any country. This is a deficit in democratic governance, as the rich and powerful, who are quite a few in any society, hold sway over the multitudes of impoverished and powerless sectors of the population.

Ideally, justice is portrayed with the icon of a blind lady holding a scale that denotes there is equality of treatment among all citizens—whether rich or poor. But perhaps this could be said in countries or states where the systems still work, and work efficiently and effectively.

Just recently, a 97-year-old woman in Germany had been sentenced to prison for having been complicit in the killings of at least 10,000 Jews during Hitler’s Nazi regime. This demonstrates how long the arm of the law is, but at least it finally reached the person who had to answer for this crime of enabling impunity during Hitler’s autocratic regime then.

All these are examples of how impunity can be stopped, although more often than not, it will take some time, and in many cases, a very long time, like eight to nine decades.

Here in our country, impunity goes unabated because there are many enablers—many of whom are quite willing and even passionately push for it at the highest levels of government. I refer to the resolutions passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives toward the end of February.

The resolutions support the stand of former president Rodrigo Duterte in refusing to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the thousands of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that resulted from his deadly war on drugs during his presidency. Even the current justice secretary is also questioning the ICC for dipping its fingers into our justice system. Sen. Robinhood Padilla, a known Duterte and President Marcos Jr. diehard, authored one of the resolutions to this effect. He also said in one of his interviews that the Philippines has a functioning justice system—so why is it necessary to bring EJKs to an international body?

Can we ask the honorable members of the Senate and the House this question: Since when is our justice system functioning well? Is it only when those involved in a crime are scions of the rich and powerful? Almost all the victims of EJKs are among the poor and powerless in this country. Last year, the son of the current justice secretary was caught possessing a substantial amount of kush (high-grade marijuana) that was allegedly delivered to him without his knowledge. But he was never punished for this.


(To be concluded)

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