IT IS said that the freedom to move your arm stops where my nose begins. Morality does not exist in a vacuum. Moral decisions are made in a given moment’s unique circumstance and very often the dilemma essentially consists in deciding whose right should prevail in that moment.

The right of alleged criminals to life (as guaranteed by the legal presumption of innocence) stops where the right to life (and its protection by the state) of law-abiding citizens begins. Theoretically they are equal rights. But in the concrete circumstance of the current drive against criminality we have to decide which right has the moment’s priority for action.

In time, we will even be called to decide what other rights we are willing to sacrifice on the altar of success in the war against crime. Trade-off is the name of the game. In life, we cannot get anything without giving up something.

In the current fight against criminality, the moral choice is between the right of law-abiding citizens to security of life and the right of alleged violators (of citizens’ rights) to the legal presumption of innocence. We cannot decide whose side we are on in a theoretical vacuum but in the prevailing concrete circumstance of criminals having already destroyed the lives of their victims with impunity as abetted by corrupt government officials and lawmen.

Perhaps because of that rather grim historical context this government has decided to face the moment’s extreme challenge by giving priority to the protection of the human rights of law-abiding citizens. Precisely because this is primarily what government is for, our primary response and duty should be to support its fight to protect the life of victims of crime. And yes because we are a nation of laws a big but yet secondary part of our response must be to watch out for government excesses that might infringe on the rights of others.

It’s not the other way around as some government people and prominent citizens are doing, giving priority attention to the human rights of alleged criminals. Like, why is Sen. Leila de Lima using senatorial privilege to vehemently push for the investigation of the killings of personalities linked to drugs when she failed miserably in her duty as Justice Secretary to stop convicted drug lords from directing their criminal activities right under her nose in the Bilibid prisons?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am against extra-judicial killings. I am only asking whose rights should be given the historical moment’s priority attention in the current fight against criminality and what rights are we willing to trade-off for government’s success in the fight against crime and corruption. We cannot have our cake and eat it too.