Friday, October 24, 2008

Faith and Justice

A convicted murder had just received executive clemency over the week. What does this mean? Well, our president deemed it acceptable to let a criminal go, and if that isn't bad enough, let him go early. Ok, I am not going to pretend like I know the details of the law with respect to this particular right of the President. Because I don't. I am just going to talk about my opinion concerning the matter in general.

So, what do I think?

I think it is one thing to give clemency to Estrada, because he was a legitimately elected President, and because his crime was (in the most basic generalization) stealing. But to give it to someone who was convicted of KILLING IN COLD BLOOD, 2 people, and this would have been 3 had the other victim been less lucky, is another thing. Sec. Gonzalez said that a convicted criminal is eligible for parole when he/she has served half his sentence and provided there were no escape attempts while serving time. Uhm, Teehankee got life for 2 murders and 1 frustrated murder. Can someone tell me how you calculate half of a life sentence? And say that number is made available, I am 1,000,000% sure it isn't 12 years. Not unless a person is only expected to live until they are 24. And since his sentence was for 2 murders and 1 frustrated murder, 12 years is not anywhere near enough.

As I was writing, I came across information from Wikipedia:

The Supreme Court of the Philippines on October 6, 1995, modified the trial court's decision and found Teehankee, Jr. guilty of the crimes of murder, homicide and attempted murder, for which, he was meted out 3 sentences, respectively, reclusiĆ³n perpetua (defined effectively as 30 years by the Revised Penal Code) and 2 indeterminate sentences of reclusion temporal, each for 8 years and 1 day to 14 years (now, as finally amended by the Supreme Court in 1995). Under Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, the maximum combined sentences cannot exceed 40 years

Don't get me wrong. I believe people can change. But is it just to say that just because there is this belief, they should not be made accountable for their actions. Teehankee didn't kill a plant, after all.

It made me think about Faith and Justice. I would always hold on to the idea that, in the end, justice would prevail. I believe(d?) that one should always fight for what was just and that this was the best way to peacefully live in a society. You work hard, you get rewarded. That is just. You do something wrong, you get punished. That is just. And, while my faith in the religious aspect of life is murky, my faith in the letter of the law has always been sound. I come from a family of lawyers and judges, pretty good and respected ones at that, so really this has been a basic truth in my life. But now I am beginning to question it. When it seems like it is so easy to get away with murder, literally, what is there left to hold on to? Is it really about connections, and money, and timing? So, is that thin book with many words that is supposed to set limits and order in our society a sham? Are the lives lost in order to exercise our rights as were notarized by our fighting forefathers in that little book for naught? Again I don't know. But I do know I am afraid of a society and a President that seem to value money and connections above all. How do I protect my loved ones if I don't have those two things? Earl described Faith as a "world religion of non-thinking". I thought about this a lot and was ready to disagree. Now I am thinking, is he right?


Earl said...

This is a great post because it brings up many things that I think are important to consider.

My critique and assault on Faith as a process of non-thinking can be summed up in response to something that you said:

"while my faith in the religious aspect of life is murky, my faith in the letter of the law has always been sound."

I would argue that "faith" in a system of law is precisely when we run into the moral ambiguities that you described. Only in a system supported by people who have "faith" in it, can absurdities be passed off as a system of law. Any system governing individuals can only be based on reason--otherwise accountability is impossible. Faith, by its nature, is subjective and relative to whoever has it (Faith in justice? Define justice? Faith provides no answer to this question, it assumes that the ones who deliver justice understand what it is). Reason, not to be confused with formalist logic, is the faculty whereby all of us interact with the physical world around us.

Reason demands evidence, in order to justify a particular action (convicting a criminal, parole, execution, etc) while Faith, regardless of how much evidence is accumulated, demands loyalty without analysis.

Bit of a long comment, but these questions are very substantial and deserve elaboration.

Mai da Paypay said...

"When it seems like it is so easy to get away with murder, literally, what is there left to hold on to?"

i honestly do not know. seeing injustice in broad daylight infuriates and frustrates me at the same time. i feel violated morally, yet, I cannot do something about it. since apathy is not an option I begin to feel helpless, and then the righteous side of me gets angered even more. it's a vicious cycle.

at the end of the day, however, I don't want to lose hope. i want to believe that our government and justice system will eventually correct themselves. it's just a matter of time.

in the meantime, let's just continue to ba law-abiding citizens, continue to teach our kids and grandkids right from wrong and continue to help our fellowmen. in the not-so-distant future, justice will prevail, and good will triumph over evil.

and wow, i think I just wrote a novel-long comment. happy weekend vicks!

vicki said...

Hey Earl! I am so glad you commented. I always enjoy reading your posts. They make me think a lot. I think, perhaps, I should have said faith in the people who administer the law rather than faith in the law alone or itself. That might have been more descriptive of what I meant in that comment. =)

vicki said...

Hey Mai, your comment reminded me of a song I like from John Mayer, titled "Waiting for the World to Change". The lyrics are too long to post as a reply so I will just write something about it separately. I understand the frustration, I often feel the same way, and I do hold on to my hope. But it's getting harder and harder. Depressing huh? I hope you and A had a great weekend. We should stop talking about getting together and actually get together. Besides, I AM DYING TO TASTE YOUR SEAFOOD DISHES! hehehe.

Mai da Paypay said...

yes yes I agree! haha! A will send you a text message/call you daw to check when you're available :-) see you soon!