JR Lopez Gonzales 11:02 AM 2
Crime is not just the kind of thing we see in the evening news. It is as real as it gets and it doesn’t even choose its own victim. It seems that there’s no safe place anymore; crime happens in the streets, in public places, or even in the hallowed spaces of our homes.
On the information released by the National Police Commission, 106 in 100,000 people are victims of crimes in the country. The most common crime incidents are robbery, theft, physical injuries, and murder.
While poverty has often been the cause for the commission of crimes, sometimes it can also be political. Crimes reach astronomical rates during the election all over the country; from Jaen, Nueva Ecija in Luzon, or even down south to Ampatuan, Maguindanao. We don’t even have a working 911 emergency response system (aside from Davao City).
|Does poverty justify one's commission of crime?|
On the recent statistics, recent crime rates have been increasing at a quick rate of one percent per annum. The reason for such increase is due to the low budget on our police force. According to the NaPolCom, the State was only able to provide a total of 188,000 policemen in the country. It means that one 1 cop is in-charge of 750 Filipinos; far from the advisable 1-in-500 civilians.
|Without sufficient budget; it is clear that we won't have a quality police force.|
In a TV interview, forensic investigator Dr. Raquel Fortun, stressed that there’s a need for the PNP’s modernization; and that evidence should be the utmost basis and not on the witness testimonies in sifting the truth from the lie of crimes. Material evidence, the thing that “does not lie,” should be given importance. She also questioned the police forces’ competence. She said that most policemen don’t even memorize the Miranda Rights or even differentiate the terms “manslaughter” or “murder”.
|There is a need for PNP's modernity.|
On the same line of analysis, the law has proven to be outdated that has to respond to the call of the times. Some provisions on our laws are directly lifted from the Spanish Code even having provisions on now-defunct duels. Some of our laws of which are even based on the American laws of 1930s have penalties that should also be updated.
But perhaps the most apparent of the problems in the country’s judicial system is its very sluggish pace. Normally, a criminal case lodged in court takes an average of 5years, 2 months and 11 days before it is resolved in the words of human rights lawyer Al Parreno on a report on extrajudicial killings. The trial period alone takes an average of 3years, 7 months and 25 days. There are a total of 562,068 pending cases sitting in the highest court of the country. Out of this number, only 18,436 were currently resolved.
While there are some non-governmental organizations (like Iligan’s Call For Justice) which help unjustly persecuted detention prisoners find bail for their temporary liberty, our system still lacks people who render legal aid. On the data collected by the Public Attorney’s Office in 2005, there are only 964 Public Attorneys in the country which is 1 in 88, 174 Filipinos. Because of this, people jailed for minor offenses, while awaiting the resolution of their cases, end up spending more time in jail than what the penalty for their crimes call for.
For the worst, some minors are even incarcerated together with adult rapists and murderers in some of the Philippines’ correctional institutions. This deliberate contradiction to the Juvenile Justice Law was even featured in Ditsi Carolino’s internationally-acclaimed documentary entitled, “Bunso”.
|Justice or "Just Tiis"?|
While it is true that an accused could easily avoid detention by posting bail, poverty excludes this as an option on the eyes of the poor. This “purgatory”-like situation can be like hell for most detainees. Allowing people to be detained for minor offenses, even though they have not yet been found guilty before a court, seems to defeat the purpose of due process.
It has often been said that “justice delayed is justice denied”. And the unbelievable slow pace of our judicial process is but contrary to the constitutional pledge on one’s “right of person to speedy trial”. Clearly, reforms have to be made to maintain a sound equilibrium between crime and justice in the Philippines to prevent the scenario from playing out over and over again in the country’s jammed prison cells.