Punishing looting during disasters

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

PUBLIC MOOD has been sympathetic to victims of Yolanda. That explains why no looter has been charged since the super-typhoon struck Tacloban City.

Was the looting induced by hunger? Not totally because they took not just food and water but also TV sets, electronic gadgets and other goods which later landed in the "Looters Market."

Robbery is already a crime. Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, former senator, wants to increase the penalty to life imprisonment for looting during calamities.

Biazon cited "massive looting of groceries, malls and grain depots" in areas hit by Yolanda.

Graphic photos of the widespread looting, he said, added more pain to victims' misery. Those pained must be Yolanda survivors who didn't gain from the looting but shared in the community's shame.

Lawmakers need to distinguish between looting to stay alive and looting to profit from sale of stolen goods. Heavier punishment may not be needed in the first but called for in the second.

Loaf of bread

Jan Valjean stole a loaf of bread for a hungry nephew in "Les Miserables," not as compelling a reason as starving in devastated Tacloban but strikes a similar chord of sympathy.

The additional penalty must be based on some amount of greed, not just innate sense of survival.

Besides, how would fear of longer jail term matter to anyone not free to think clearly because he's struggling to keep himself alive?


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 07, 2014.


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