JUSTICE HELD HOSTAGE27.09.10
Aired on September 27, 2010
Narration by RG Foncardas
JUSTICE HELD HOSTAGE
In the past weeks, two incidents centering on the Philippine police caught the attention of international media. The Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis and the torture of a criminal suspect at the hands of local policemen. Major networks such as CNN and BBC followed the unfolding stories. Video clips related to the incidents proliferated on the internet and gave them global exposure. Not to be outdone, our local media–TV, radio, and newspapers—flooded their audiences with reports.
Ongoing investigations seek to resolve the question of who should bear the responsibility for the failed rescue operation that caused the death of eight foreign tourists. This was certainly not the first hostage-taking incident we have encountered, and it is not likely to be the last. The motivations and demands of the hostage-takers vary. But in a number of cases, the grievances that arose were similar in nature to those that drove Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza to a tragic decision.
This suggests that one major root of the problem is the dysfunction of our judicial system. In the millions of pending cases, from the barangay to the municipal court, to the regional trial court, to the court of appeals, and all the way to the Supreme Court, the slow-turning gears of justice have pushed people to the brink of despair. Stalled cases linger several years, some even several decades. Accused and accuser must bear the long wait. It is an even greater tragedy that only a few have the influence, power and connections to pursue their respective cases. This, already, is a gross injustice.
During the heat of the hostage-taking in Manila, another incident involving policemen occurred. Several local police were ambushed and killed by insurgents. The incident was not given much media attention except by provincial newspapers. The families of these policemen are poor, and it is not likely that they will see justice done any time soon.
Without trivializing the irreparable loss sustained by the foreign hostages and their families—without in any way playing down the grievous wrong committed by the hostage-taker against them—and without dismissing the tactical errors of the rescue operation—it is still necessary to see that demonizing all policemen is not the answer.
Although there is need to hold the responsible officials accountable and to deal more effectively with the next hostage crisis, a full resolution of the underlying problem requires the reformation of our justice system. Policemen have been hostage-takers, but policemen have also been victims. Both wronged policemen and hostages cry for justice in the prevailing system. Justice itself is held hostage. But by God’s grace and through righteous leadership, justice may yet be liberated to benefit those to whom it is due.