March 27, 2011

A FAUSTIAN DEAL?

It pays to wait--and also to have friends in high places apparently. That is the message I get from the successful evasion by Ping Lacson of his arrest while he awaited the quashal of the arrest warrant and the Information charging him for the Dacer-Corbito murders. All he needed to do was leave the country, cool his heels while there and then return as if nothing had happened.

In the meantime, a tectonic shift in perspective apparently had happened. The Secretary of Local Government, who is nominally (is Rico E. Puno still around?) in charge of the PNP, forgot who he was and became his de facto media liaison, even predicting that he would soon surface. The President even welcomed him back (as stated by his spokesperson), conveniently omitting to mention that Lacson had evaded arrest after congratulating new graduates of the PNPA (that's the POLICE academy--which we certainly hope is not the same academy in the four, or is that five, films) and exhorting them to avoid corruption.

Even before he can face a questioning and curious public, to whom he is accountable, he is eagerly welcomed by his Senate colleagues, not only by his mistah who knows a thing or two also about evading arrest (though not quite as successful as Ping) but even by those who never wore a uniform or a badge in their lives. The reason for the warm welcome? "We need all hands" in the senate trial of Merceditas Gutierrez.

More than the legal technicalities of a Senator and former PNP Chief successfully evading arrest for one year, what is more revealing in Lacson's successful evasion of arrest is the lie that he has put to the capacity of law enforcement agencies (PNP and NBI) to successfully locate and arrest suspects.

Lacson is not a nobody. He has run for President and his face has been plastered across the country before. He is instantly recognizable (even with his preferred disguise apparently, which is described as "a bonnet and dark shades") and short of a face transplant would not be mistaken for anyone else. He is quite the rake and I cannot imagine him dressing up in rags, even if just to conceal himself, and so a well-dressed, tall, fair-skinned, well-coiffed man looking like Ping Lacson would certainly, quite literally, sound the alarms.

There are two possible explanations why Lacson was able to evade arrest. I don't like both simply because if either or both are true, then we are in very, very deep doodoo indeed.

The first would be absolute incompetence. This would explain how, despite the police and NBI looking high and low, neither was able to find hide nor hair of him. If I presume regularity in the performance of their duties, then this explanation is the only one that makes sense.

The second would be corruption and connivance, which in this context would mean the same thing. For this, a presumption of good faith does not exist as this would be the only other explanation for how, despite the Secretary of Justice's pronouncement that the govermment would go all-out, he still remained hid. This might also explain how, despite a cancelled passport, he managed to enter the country.

I don't like the implications of either explanation. Unfortunately, the President appears to not be too disturbed by it as shown by his statements, made through his spokesman; and this saddens me the most.

The President was elected on the highest moral standard possible--a standard he himself set. Remember "tuwid na daan" and "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap"? The "straight and narrow" road is a road that requires a lot of witnessing, i.e., walk your talk even when--or especially when--it is difficult and it is painful. That would also mean calling the attention of those on your team who do not walk their talk and holding them accountable.

Where was tuwid na daan in the Lacson evasion? Where was "walk the talk"?

What is disturbing about the warm welcome Lacson got from the President and the Senators, despite a clear and documented evasion by Lacson of a then-valid order of the court involving a very serious criminal charge, is the ethical ambiguity that their acts show. It is "the end justifies the means" reasoning--we need every senator willing to convict Merci, so we welcome him back and never mind that he actually did the very thing we would condemn if it were done by any other person.

It is a deal much like Faust's and it is a deal that I cannot live with and a deal I cannot accept.

When we become the very thing we hate in trying to stop that which we hate, what's left of us?

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