OFFLINE: Strong signs of a breakdown in law and order

In a span of one week, three elected government officials were targets of assassination. One attempt succeeded, while in the two other cases, the officials were injured, but survived. The same could not be said of the companions of two officials, who were killed.

Also last week, a tourist from New Zealand was shot and killed after he fought a gunman who was attempting a hold up in Makati City.

At least in that case, the suspect was caught. He actually turned himself in after his face was caught on CCTV cameras, and he would have been the subject of a (silent) shoot-to-kill order if he had not surrendered.

That suspect denied being the gunman, but at least five witnesses pointed to him as the killer.

The crime may have been solved, but it left a huge black eye for  Philippine tourism.

For one, the suspect was already wanted for a previous violent crime. Why, then, was he allowed to move about scot free? The fact that he was so afraid of what the police would to do him for his latest crime says that he could have been arrested before under pain of being another tokhang victim.

For those who may have forgotten, tokhang refers to the operations of the police during the Duterte regime wherein drug suspects were mercilessly gunned down without being given the chance to peacefully surrender.

The series of violent crimes sends a strong message to the public that no one is safe. Criminal elements are everywhere and guns are easy to procure, not just legally but illegally.

Relative to the seeming breakdown of law and order is that fact that an innocent person – former senator Leila de Lima – remains incarcerated for crimes she did not commit.

The former justice secretary has been under arrest for six years, even as most witnesses against her have retracted their testimonies and implicated officials of the Duterte regime for the trumped up drug charges she still faces.

US and European lawmakers and organizations have consistently pointed to De Lima’s arrest as proof that the judicial system in the country is barely working, if at all.

There’s an old saying that says there are two systems of justice in the country, one for the rich and powerful, and the other for ordinary people. In the latter case, justice is a hit-or-miss proposition.

There are stories told of very poor Pinoys stealing something as inconsequential as a loaf of bread, and being sentenced to years in prison for what should be a forgivable offense.

In fact, lawlessness has practically become a way of life for many Filipinos.

Some decades ago, after a government official was shot, a high-ranking official famously asked: “General, what is happening to our country?”

The answer to that is, it’s gotten from bad to worse. And there is no indication that it will improve any time soon.

The majority of Filipinos are aware that the likes of former first lady Imelda Marcos should be in prison. She was convicted with finality. Yet she has not spent a single minute of incarceration.

One past Philippine National Police chief said he could not and would not order the arrest of Imelda Marcos “because of her age.”

The same reason was used to allow Juan Ponce Enrile to be free, and even serve as Cabinet secretary. He didn’t even have to wear a neck brace or be pushed around in a wheelchair to try and earn some sympathy like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Imelda’s high priced lawyers were able to take all known delaying tactics to prevent her being arrested and imprisoned.

Technicalities have always been the first resort of lawyers defending the obviously guilty.

By all accounts, Erap and Jinggoy Estrada, along with Bong Revilla should be inmates at the New Bilibid Prison. There, they can at least live in luxurious surroundings, just like the VIP inmates who still manage to pursue their criminal enterprises while inside.

Hasn’t happened, has it?

That there can be no real justice for countless Filipinos can be gleaned from the current and previous administrations’ rejecting the International Criminal Court, which has decided to proceed with its investigation of the Duterte regime’s brutal drug war.

The apologists for both Marcos Jr and Duterte have said and continue to say that the Philippines has a fully functioning justice system.

A visiting team of European parliamentarians last week said it best. There are an estimated 6,000 victims of summary execution during the Duterte years. Only 20 cases have been filed. Only three have been convicted.

And guess what? The 6,000 figure is the low end of the number of mostly young men – and children – who were killed as a result of Duterte’s tokhang. The high estimate says that the number is closer to 30,000.

But the government insists that the justice system is alive and well, and thriving.

Presume that the actual number of tokhang victims is closer to 30,000. Now imagine the number of their friends and family who now accept that they will never find justice for their fallen loved ones.

They are the best candidates for recruitment by the communist underground, aren’t they?

For now, there is no chance that the justice system can be fixed. Not with the country’s chief executive himself flaunting the law. He remains totally silent on the P200-plus billion in taxes his family owes the government.

The country also has a justice secretary whose son was almost instantaneously cleared of drug charges. He claims he had nothing to do with that act of instant justice. One must wonder how stupid he believes the people are.

Last week’s series of high-profile crimes are very likely not the last. There will be more assassination attempts at government officials, be they honest or corrupt.

The honest ones will be targeted by the enemies they made in the performance of their duties, while the corrupt will be in the crosshairs of those who want to take their place.

Meanwhile, as long as the most powerful past and present officials are around, never to be touched by the supposed long arm of the law, how can anyone in his right mind expect that justice will reign over the poor, pathetic Republic of the Philippines?

Can a totally broken-down system ever be repaired?

With the nursery rhyme, was anyone able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

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