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There’s the Rub

Glimmer of light

Dante Jimenez, head of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), has an interesting idea. That is to help the authorities arrest Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla.

“We are now forming citizen arrest teams,” he says. “Just in case the Sandiganbayan issues warrants of arrest, the VACC will be posting teams where the three senators live. We want to give moral support to the police and send a message that we shouldn’t be afraid.”

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They may however have to camp out there for quite a while, if not indeed end up waiting for Godot. The Sandiganbayan seems in no hurry to issue those arrest orders. “It doesn’t mean that the warrant will be issued within 10 days,” says Renato Bocar, Sandiganbayan executive clerk of court. “The documents and pieces of evidence are voluminous and the nature of the case is complicated. It might take more than 10 days before the justices are able to issue a warrant.”

Well, if that proves anything, it is only Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” You give someone more than 10 days to finish a task, he will finish the task in more than 10 days. You give him 10 days, he will finish the task in 10. You give him one day, he will finish it in one. Indeed, it’s not inconceivable that you tell him “deadline yesterday,” and he will have finished the task yesterday (Monday).

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What on earth is so complicated about the Napoles scam and the three senators’ complicity in it? The case has been talked about for a year now, it has gone through several Senate hearings, and it has gone through the Ombudsman’s scrutiny. What can the Sandiganbayan discover that’s so startling but has evaded the notice of those that went through it before? In these parts, time has never been on the side of justice, or common sense. It has only been on the side of tender persuasion, of common transaction.

My sympathies are entirely with Jimenez’s group. They truly would be doing the world, or this country, an immense favor keeping vigil in the vicinity of the senators’ houses, waiting to pounce on them once the arrest order is issued. It would put pressure not just on the senators but on the Sandiganbayan and the law enforcers. About time the law was enforced.

How complicated is the Janet Napoles scam compared, for example, to the Enron scam in the United States? That is about as complicated as arithmetic compared to nuclear physics. Shortly after Enron’s founder Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeffrey Skilling were indicted for securities and accounting fraud, they were arrested. Skilling in February 2004 and Lay in July of that same year. There are pictures of them during their arrests, hands cuffed behind their backs, being led to a car by authorities dressed in, appropriately enough, business attire.

They went to trial in February 2006 and were convicted four months later. Lay got 20-30 years of prison and Skilling 24 years, but which was reduced by 10 years. Lay himself never got to serve his sentence, dying from a heart attack shortly afterward. These were the heads of the seventh biggest company in the United States, dealing with hundreds of

billions of dollars. Yet none of that meant anything at the end of the day. Justice was carried out, swiftly, firmly, inexorably.

I’m with the VACC in wanting to see the arrest of the senators as public as possible, as high profile as possible, as dramatic as possible. Quite apart from as soon as possible. It has two magnificent things to impart to the country.

Not the least of them is contributing to curb the culture of impunity. It won’t dispel it, but it will help hugely in that direction. The culture of impunity doesn’t just apply to murder, though that is the most heinous aspect of it.

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It applies as well to all sorts of iniquity and perfidy, foremost of them corruption, foremost of them looting. It’s a culture that has made rape and pillage, murder and mayhem, riot from the widespread belief, reinforced by daily life, that the culprits, criminals, hell’s sundry spawn will get away with them.

Nothing cures that than the sight of the seemingly high and mighty, the seemingly untouchable, brought low by the hand of law, touched by the hand of justice. We missed an opportunity for that lesson to be taught, and learned, a decade and a half ago when Erap was delivered to a precinct and fingerprinted like a common criminal. The problem being that the person who delivered him there was an uncommon one. We have a second chance to do it right. We can’t afford to miss that chance again, we can’t afford to bungle it again.

More than that, seeing the senators being handcuffed like the Enron officials should go a long way to pushing back the perception of law not as something impersonal, impartial, implacable, majestic, but as something malleable, tractable, negotiable,  makukuha  sa  pakiusap. You see Lay and Skilling handcuffed and dressed in prison uniform after they have been convicted of fraud, and that is the one thing that fills you, that is the one thing that awes you, the stern benignity of the law, the Olympian unyieldingness of justice.

The sight of it probably carried only a slight shock value for Americans, used as they are to the powerful and famous, in politics, in entertainment, in sports, being arrested, tried, and thrown in jail upon conviction. But it should shock us enough to impart a lesson to us. It should rock us violently out of our smugness, out of our cynicism, out of our willingness to “move on,” and give us to glimpse the true shape of law, the true form of justice. To paraphrase Erap’s famous line, “walang kama-kamaganak, walang kai-kaibigan,” we’ll have “walang paki-pakiusap, walang palu-palusot.”

It’s a glimmer of light at the end of a long, long, tunnel.

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, citizen arrest, Dante Jimenez, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, nation, news, pork barrel scam, Sandiganbayan, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption
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