TODAY, March 17, 2017, marks a full week since the murder of 30 year-old working student Cherry Mae Dayo.
A week ago today, robbers broke into the house she was looking after, stabbed her multiple times, and sexually assaulted her.
A week ago, Cherry Mae, she who had worked hard for a college degree; she who had dreamed of dragging her family out of grinding poverty; she who had dreamt of teaching children how to read, write, and do arithmetic, died after two hours desperately fighting for her life.
By dawn of Saturday, police, through Police Station 1 chief Senior Inspector Maricris Mulat, announced the arrest of five suspects. The suspects--Warren Amarga, Joel Jonson, Angel Mae Rada, Joan Escalante, and a 17 year-old minor--were positively identified by witnesses who saw the five at the crime scene. The ownership of a 15-inch blade recovered by police was also traced to Warren Amarga, who soon after owned up to stabbing and raping Cherry Mae.
The killing of Cherry Mae is significant for a number of reasons. First, Cherry Mae’s rape and murder comes at the heels of the passing by the Lower House of a new death penalty bill. House Bill 4727 brings the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte one step closer to fulfilling a campaign promise, although the House version limits the imposition of capital punishment to heinous drug-related offenses. And rape is not one of them.
Understandably, the clamor immediately after Cherry Mae’s brutal death "exploded" in social media is for rape, along with plunder and other heinous crimes, to be included in the offenses punishable by death. Not a few even urged the immediate lynching of the five suspects, although the suspects were even then at the custody of police. Which brings us to the second point--due process.
Even if we were to assume that the death penalty has been reimposed, the five suspects would still have to undergo trial where, by right, they would be allowed to defend themselves and answer their accusers. This is tedious, true. The faults and limitations of the country’s criminal justice system, where trials go on and on and on(especially when the accused are moneyed and powerful) are also what makes it so tempting to resort to short cuts. But without due process, there can be no justice, only vengeance. Vengeance, or revenge, only perpetuates more violence. Who was it that said "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave the world blind and toothless"?
Lastly, the tragic death of Cherry Mae presents a silver lining--that the police, even and especially in this age of Tokhang, can act swiftly and surely in apprehending suspected criminals. And suspects, in light of the 7,000+ "nanlaban" all over the country, can actually be made to appear before a court of law and be made to answer the charges against them.
Now if only this country has a thousand cops like Senior Inspector Maricris Mulat.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 17, 2017.