Not a matter of shame

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014


LAW enforcement should not be about being unimaginative and lazy. When law enforcers lack creativity and drive, the tendency is they take shortcuts in implementing the rules and violate people’s rights. The result is the destruction of democratic tenets.

I therefore agree with Gov. Hilario Davide III and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) when they cautioned Naga City Mayor Valdemar Chiong on his plan to put in the city plaza the names of persons arrested and charged with offenses involving illegal drugs. Chiong thinks the move will help deter drug lords and drug pushers from doing their thing in the city.

“Pero mao lagi, ato nang tan-awon pud ang aspeto sa constitutional rights ining mga tawo nato. They are presumed innocent,” Davide said.

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CHR investigator Primo Cadampog said the plan could cause shame and embarrassment not only to the persons named but also to their family.

Indeed, anybody facing charges for a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A shame campaign short-circuits due process and that is wrong for a number of reasons.

As one who saw the excesses of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, I do not want a repeat of the experience where suspects are jailed, tortured and “salvaged”--all of them already presumed by the military to be guilty and couldn’t prove their innocence.

A shame campaign follows the same principle, only that the punishment is psychological.

I actually do not know why some government officials are enamored with shame campaigns when there is no proof it helps in preventing the commission of crime.

If, for example, the subjects of the shame campaign in Naga have already been arrested and charged, then they have been, to use law enforcer-speak, “neutralized.” If they are really involved in the illegal drug trade, then the arrest and the cases in court have made them ineffective as participants in the said trade.

And what about those that are possibly innocent of the charge? Shaming them would be as wrong as making up the charges against them—and these constitute double-whammy.

Besides, what’s so special about displaying the names of those involved in the illegal drugs trade at the city plaza? People in communities know who the drug pushers and drug lords are in their midst. In a way, they are even more knowledgeable about the illegal drug trade in their areas than, for example, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The most effective way of battling the illegal drugs trade is through aggressive and honest law enforcement. Unfortunately, these do not seem to exist in this country, specifically in relation to the illegal drugs menace. This is because many law enforcers have been “compromised” or are in the drug lords’ payroll.

Meanwhile, law enforcers who have not been “compromised” either do not have the drive to go against people involved in the illegal drug trade or, if they are aggressive, lack the creativity to succeed in their effort. The result is that top-level drug lords evade arrest.

Again, this is not limited to the campaign against illegal drugs. The battle against crime in general gets bogged down because of the problems already mentioned. This has caused public disillusionment and frustration, which in turn has led to the acceptance of the use of shortcuts and the jettisoning of due process in battling criminality.

In a way, public frustration and desperation are the reasons why government officials who are proponents of the use of shortcuts in law enforcement are currently popular.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 14, 2014.

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