Monday July 16, 2018

Seares: Stop shaming crime suspects

THEY shamed crime suspects before. In 1999, then Manila mayor Alfredo Lim sprayed paint on gates, doors and walls of houses, branding occupants as drug suspects. The Court of Appeals declared that the city ordinance violated the Constitution.

Now, 18 years later, the barangay captain of Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City, Junard “Ahong” Chan, with the support of Mayor Paz Radaza, is doing it too. And when asked to stop, Chan said they would not. Check out their major reasons for pushing the illegal and unconstitutional strategy:

[] It’s better than being gunned down by police or vigilantes.

[] A Commission on Human Rights investigator said he found no violation of rights in the anti-drug campaign.

Read C.A. ruling

First, on that CHR investigator, one Leo Villarino, who reportedly approved Bry. Captain Ahong’s campaign. His boss should ask Villarino to read the Jan. 28, 2000 C.A. decision on then mayor Lim’s similar campaign. The C.A. explicitly ruled that it was not constitutional. (The Supreme Court “shafted” Lim’s appeal on a technicality, a pity because the high tribunal could’ve lent more force and finality to the ruling.)

“The suspects are already considered and unqualifiedly condemned and branded and announced to the world without benefit of trial,” the C.A. said. And the victim is everyone in the house, without distinction of age or participation in the alleged crime.

How about Ahong’s good intention? “The ends don’t justify the means,” the C.A. said, “We shall have to adhere to the rule of law, always the rule of law.”

Cruel and unusual

Scoff at the rule of law, as the president and other well-meaning supporters of the campaign at times do, but the precept is inscribed almost on rock. It’s in our Constitution, our laws, even in the agreements the country have forged with other countries in the community of nations.

As to it’s being less worse fate than being killed, thousands of drug dealers and addicts have been felled. None of the choices would be acceptable under the kind of government that we elect our leaders. It’s only less humiliating than asking the barangay captain or the mayor -- if he or she were suspected of, say, corruption -- to step down or be paraded on the streets with the sign “I AM CORRUPT” laced on the neck.

Public officials would resent and mourn that. They’d be embarrassed for themselves and their families and friends. Even if it were included in the penal code, and it’s not, it would be cruel and unusual punishment and constitutionally offensive.


Last March, DILG chief Mike Sueno tried another tack: putting a sticker on the house that they consider drug-free. Better than spraying the words “This is a drug den”? No, because it means the houses bearing no sticker are drug-affected. Same result, same branding of the occupants as criminals without being heard and tried. Sueno later dropped the plan.

These are shortcuts to anti-illegal drugs campaign: the killings, now the shaming. We embrace the tactics, thinking they’d help achieve the goal. We close our eyes to the bending or breaking of the law -- until we realize it does not and instead increases the number of crimes and the nations pile of crises.