Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cinematic arrest and detention


This is my column today, June 10, 2014. 
Are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr going to be arrested and put behind bars anytime soon?  And if they are, how and where will they be arrested?  And more important for many people, particulary for those who are passionate about putting a stop to this predilection of putting powerful people on hospital arrest or on vacation houses, where will the three senators be taken after their arrest?
There’s a clamor to have the three senators arrested within the grounds of the Senate of the Philippines, perhaps even during or in the middle of a session, and then hauling them to an ordinary jail where they would suffer all the kinds of deprivation a third-world jail offers from cramped cells, to unbearable heat, to lack of decent facilities.  The argument is that people in power should not really be given special treatment, particularly if they are accused of stealing gazillions of money from the public coffers.
Someone I know has even imagined the whole scenario, complete with musical scoring and set design.  He imagined soldiers in full regalia marching down the session hall of the Senate in the process interrupting a heated discussion, and amidst vigorous protests from senators about the need to respect the independence of the Senate and its stature as the bastion of freedom and liberty, the three senators are handcuffed, they are read their Miranda rights, and are then unceremoniously dragged out of the Senate halls, shoved into police cars, all the while being trailed by television cameras and journalists who broadcast the whole indignity live to millions of people.
I know. Our sense of reality has been seriously warped by telenovellas who bring dead people to life, make courtrooms throb with excitement, and enable the average person to articulate cinematic dialogues.  We wish real life would be as satisfying.
A more realistic expectation is a voluntary surrender for the three senators, brokered by individuals with pretensions of being this country’s senior statesmen.  In short, one cannot discount the possibility that backroom negotiations are, in fact, already underway and that someone has already scripted a scenario that is acceptable, or advantageous, to as many people as possible.
 Having the three senators arrested is easier; getting them convicted is the more difficult part.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three are eventually declared not guilty.  Very often in this country, justice is already considered achieved once people spend time in jail—or in some form of deprivation and isolation.  Take the case of the supposed perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre—the fact that they are already in jail while being tried in a special court is being hailed as a commensurate measure of success.  In some people’s minds, these people are supposed to end up in jail if they get convicted—and that’s where they are now, anyway.  Unfortunately, the whole setup creates underdogs.  We all know what happens to underdogs —they get public sympathy and get re-elected into office eventually.
I would prefer that the Ombudsman first build a tight case that would guarantee conviction.  Contrary to public opinion, we don’t have problems jailing people in this country.  But we do have problems declaring them guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
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The piece of news that is being anticipated by the artistic community is the President’s announcement of the new batch of National Artists.  It’s been quite sometime since the last batch of national artists were declared.  It’s long overdue.  I think most everyone in this country who are literate can understand the need to validate the lifelong contributions of certain prominent and deserving artists to strengthening the collective soul of the nation. 
From what I gathered from my friends in the artistic circuit, the President has already approved the declaration of new national artists except that the announcement is being kept in abeyance due to a possible controversy.  Apparently, the Filipino superstar, Nora Aunor, has been stricken off the list due to supposed “moral” issues.  The move is expected to draw flak—as it should.   Nowhere in the qualifications for national artist does it say that someone has to be lily white in reputation to qualify for the distinction.  Quite frankly, this administration is inviting trouble with the exclusion of Aunor in the running.  To many, she is the embodiment of Philippine cinema.

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