January 28, 2011

THE POVERTY OF WORDS

Listening to the public hearing called by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the toxic deal entered into by the Ombudsman and the Special Prosecutor with former AFP Comptroller Carlos F. Garcia, I realized the poverty of the English language in expressing the sense of anger, outrage, and disbelief that I felt while listening to Angelo Reyes, former AFP Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense, and a former comptroller Jacinto Ligot publicly claiming convenient memory loss in relation to charges that Reyes and other AFP Chiefs of Staff received retirement money running to as high as Fifty Million Pesos and monthly stipends of about Five Million Pesos.

"Angry", "Enraged" and "Appalled" fail to scratch the surface in describing the emotions running through me as I listened to a public airing of dirty linen in the AFP hierarchy by its former budget director. There were no words then and there are none now, at least in the English language, to describe the anger, the rage, the utter sense of disbelief at the moral depravity of these "officers and gentlemen" in their cavalier treatment of people's funds.

Handing out the people's money to Generals to welcome them into the fold or send them off into yet another cushy job was apparently a way of life for them, and the monies that they handed out were not petty cash. These ran into the tens of millions, and not for one occasion but were given monthly! In what government manual these comptrollers saw the justification for being able to hand out money like that I will never know; I work for the government and I have yet to see a government manual that will allow me to hand out the people's money like it was a personal expense account.

Never mind that the money that was being handed out could have been used for soldiers' welfare; never mind that it could have gone to basic, minimum, and much needed protective gear and equipment like combat boots and field rations; never mind that it could have gone to housing, let alone better housing; never mind that it could have gone to better use for our soldiers in the field.

Mind only that the money lined the pockets of those few, those exalted, those influential, those connected enough to make it to the top tier of the AFP hierarchy; mind only that they think they are "entitled" to this money because they have stars on their epaulets while our soldiers gaze at the stars in open battle fields wondering when the wars will end; mind only that even as their pockets, wallets and bank accounts are filled to bursting with these amounts that they conveniently forget receiving such amounts.

The King's (or Queen's) English is such a beautiful language, yet on this occasion I find it so poor, so mendicant, so totally insufficient and inadequate to express what I, and I am certain many others, feel while listening to an account of plunder that would stir even the most jaded of hearts to anger.

Filipino is a much more beautiful language. It conveys feelings, emotions, passions and desires with greater profundity than English. Reflecting on how I felt, I thought that perhaps nakakagalit, nakakapoot, nakakapanlumo could better capture what was stirred in me by the revelations at the hearing yesterday.

I do not profess expertise in either English or Filipino and thus may correctly, under these circumstances, profess to be a "man of few words."

And so I sit here, trying to conjure up words like nakakagalit, nakakapoot, nakakapanlumo to express how I feel more profoundly than being "angry", "enraged" or "appalled"; and the realization strikes me that while these filipino words indeed scratch the surface, they nonetheless fail miserably at conveying the depth of anger of a soul reduced to simmering silence by the stark poverty of words.

January 20, 2011

NOT IN MY NAME

The President expressed his reservations about reimposing the death penalty because the judicial system isn't perfect. He used to be for it but has changed his mind. The President is right on this issue and here is why.

In People v. Efren Mateo, G.R. Nos. 147678-87, the Supreme Court made a landmark admission that the judicial system isn't perfect and how! Citing cold, hard statistics, the Supreme Court said that:

"Statistics would disclose that within the eleven-year period since the re-imposition of the death penalty law in 1993 until June 2004, the trial courts have imposed capital punishment in approximately 1,493, out of which 907 cases have been passed upon in review by the Court. In the Supreme Court, where these staggering numbers find their way on automatic review, the penalty has been affirmed in only 230 cases comprising but 25.36% of the total number. Significantly, in more than half or 64.61% of the cases, the judgment has been modified through an order of remand for further proceedings, by the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law or by a reduction of the sentence. Indeed, the reduction by the Court of the death penalty to reclusion perpetua has been made in no less than 483 cases or 53.25% of the total number. The Court has also rendered a judgment of acquittal in sixty-five (65) cases. In sum, the cases where the judgment of death has either been modified or vacated consist of an astounding 71.77% of the total of death penalty cases directly elevated before the Court on automatic review that translates to a total of six hundred fifty-one (651) out of nine hundred seven (907) appellants saved from lethal injection." (underscoring provided, citations omitted)

The death penalty is the most final of all penalties. It cannot and should not exist where the conditions for determining guilt or innocence are so imperfect--as admitted by no less than the Supreme Court itself.

I have witnessed two executions. It is an experience I do not wish to inflict on my worst enemy. In the only triple execution so far (three convicts in one day, one after the other), at least one of the three who was killed was widely acknowledged by the inmates in Bilibid to be absolutely innocent.

My heart goes out to the Lozano and Evangelista families and all the others who have lost loved ones in the cycle of senseless violence but more violence is not the solution.

By all means, hunt down those who inflict this senseless violence, arrest them, build up cases against them, charge them, try them and keep them in jail. This must be done for every criminal who kills, who steals, who pillages, who plunders for it is this certainty that one who breaks the law will be held accountable that deters a criminal; it is not the severity of a punishment the criminal is confident of evading because he can get a good lawyer, can intimidate or kill witnesses and occasionally may even buy off judges.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best and most memorably:

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."

The death penalty is State-sanctioned murder.

The greatest irony and tragedy is that it is carried out in the name of the People.

I raise my voice to join the President's.

I OPPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY IN ANY FORM, MANNER, INSTANCE OR CIRCUMSTANCE.

DO NOT KILL IN MY NAME.