Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

The long road to justice

Posted on March 28, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated March 29, 2009 12:00 AM


The recent surfacing of explosive affidavits pertaining to the Dacer-Corbito murders years ago has once again riveted us. Are people telling the truth? What about the so-called existing counter-affidavits? Can justice really be served? Really, now.

As a people, we are hungry for justice. Why? Because historically, we have been unsuccessful in seeing justice played out. Thus, we continue to distrust our justice system. One result of this is, as a society, we have failed in defining categorically who our villains are. Aguinaldo, Marcos, the Filipino collaborators during the Japanese occupation, just to name a few, have gotten off largely scot-free for the crimes they committed against their countrymen. Sometimes, I wonder why we continue to ask people to be heroes when we cannot even call the villains as they are.

Today, I would like to open an unsavory can of worms and list down cases of “unsolved” crimes and what to me are cases of undelivered justice that have plagued us and continue to warp our sense of identity, history and what we really profess to believe in as a people. We can’t get past what we cannot acknowledge. It may require a truth commission similar to what South Africa had to do to confront their apartheid past for us to move on as a people.

If I had a magic wand and could compel historical figures, both dead and alive, to tell the truth, I would certainly do so to finally put to rest certain questions that have bogged us down as a people. Here are just some people I would like to get the truth out of:

1) Emilio Aguinaldo — Historians tell us that he ordered the killing of the Supremo Andres Bonifacio and his brother, but he never categorically admitted to it. I remember a story told by one of my older sisters. Her history class was on an excursion in the house of Aguinaldo in Cavite in the ‘50s. The general was already old but still quite sprightly. He was walking the students around his house showing them mementos and other historical stuff when one of the students asked out loud and in all innocence if it was true that he had Bonifacio killed. The host was clearly caught off-guard. Emilio Aguinaldo became quiet for a few seconds before he replied, quite evasively, “History will tell the truth.”

2) World War II collaborators — I am not talking here of the small-town traitors who snitched on the guerrillas since they probably got their comeuppance from their own neighbors. I am talking here of the big ones that society still whispers about — from President Jose B. Laurel to Ninoy Aquino’s father and many other politicians, including possibly some of my own relatives. I would like to ask them whether, in their heart of hearts, they actually believed they were serving the Filipino people by sleeping with the enemy, so to speak. I ask this seriously, and not just for historical but also for moral, spiritual clarity.

In other countries, like France, Italy and others, people — big and small — who did what they did were summarily shot or hanged and condemned forever in history books. There was no ambiguity about how to treat such people, and this probably redounded to something good in terms of how these countries look at themselves and their history.

3) The Marcoses — To this day, the Marcoses admit to no theft, abuse, torture, unlawful deaths or murders, or any violation of any law. They also offer no remorse or apology. The courts have not delivered any justice. We have a deep national debt to pay, wounds that refuse to heal and justice not served thanks largely to our courts and our penchant as a people for forgetting, and administering cheap forgiveness. While the Marcoses may have staged a comeback into our national life, and though some quarters give them some respect, they are still considered low-lives by a large sector of our population.

If we had moved quickly right after EDSA and delivered swift justice, things would have turned out differently. I think we would have had a better chance at honest governance in the administrations that followed.

4) Joseph “Erap” Estrada — He was the only president ever convicted of plunder. His trial ran for six years and he was convicted beyond reasonable doubt. And yet, even before the verdict was handed down, many people in government — and to my big disappointment Mar Roxas himself — were already preparing resolutions to pardon him. It’s as if we are uncomfortable when someone from the political elite, the upper class, is found guilty.

5) Plaza Miranda — Marcos claimed it was the communists who did it. Ninoy claimed it was Marcos who ordered it. Curiously, some former Communist Party members claim it was CPP chairman Joma Sison himself who ordered the attack that almost decimated the Liberal Party in 1971. The case has never been resolved but it is important to know who the real perpetrators are so that we can know our own history.

6) Who killed Ninoy Aquino? — We may have brought to justice all 12 soldiers involved in escorting Ninoy to his death, but we have not found the mastermind. Some really prominent people have been mentioned in connection with this heinous crime but again, no direct proof has been presented and none will probably emerge. We still do not know whether or not they are innocent. It seems that, most of the time, accusations against prominent people fail to prosper in this country. Neither will the accusations ever be truthfully erased because our justice system, for the most part, seems incapable of doing anything that will be perceived to be aboveboard.

7) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — This woman alone elicits questions that could fill volumes. Throw in her family and our courts and historians will have their hands full. I leave that to them. But a simple question I want answered is what compelled her to say “sorry” for talking to a notorious Comelec operative while the counting of votes was going on after the presidential elections of 2004, even if she claims it was not her voice on the “Hello Garci” CD. What was that all about?

Because we are unable to find answers to the big questions, we have become obsessed with answering the trivial, unimportant ones. Is this why we love gossip shows? We live in a society where very little of what actually transpires can be truthfully verified. Everything is lost in a maze of denials, legalities, outright lies and obfuscations.

The poetess Adrienne Rich could have been describing the Philippines when she wrote, “False history gets made all day, any day; the truth of the new is never on the news.”

Thus, our moral compass is defective. We elect people in spite of our knowledge or suspicion that many of them are plunderers, coup plotters, murderers, genuine low-lives. A history of failed justice has crippled our judgment.

In contrast, just last week, a well-known and respected national figure in Australia by the name of Judge Einfeld was found out to have lied about a traffic ticket that would have cost him 75 Australian dollars and some demerit points. Because of his perjury, he was sentenced to serve two years in jail and stripped of his license and perks for the rest of his life. His proud family was reduced to pleading before a TV audience that the justice be spared for all the good things that he has done for society. I sat watching all this in disbelief.

In our society where no one admits to any wrongdoing, much less apologizes, it’s a long, hard road we must still travel to get to where we want to go.

0 to “The long road to justice”

  1. A very interesting read Jim. I normally am not given to talk of politics, but this post resonates with me. I love the Philippines and Filipino people generally, it is however a real sad situation when those who have corrupted and bled the system and caused so much pain to their own people is excused or overlooked, that is reprehensible. I do hope that somewhere on the horizon we can see the rise of a new generation of people in the Philippines who identify with the notion said in the movie Gladiator; That which we do here echoes in eternity, and rise up to seek for the betterment of a nation long overdue for its reward and recognition internationally.

    Perhaps we need someone like YOU. Are you up to the challenge and difficulty of making a difference in the Philippines? we need someone who is willing to stand for something and rally the other people in Philippine politics who DO want to make a difference. I believe that there are greedy people there, but there are also very good and decent people also. They need a leader, not a figure head, a real leader.

  2. John Santiago says:

    Macapagal-Arroyo will not go down without a bloody fight. She will try everything to push Cha-cha. Why wouldn’t she? She knows if anyone not to her liking wins 2010..she is the next target of all these investigations.

    The show must go on! The Philippines is a banana republic wether we admit it or not.

    Change? What we really need for the Philippines is an alternative ending similar to what would have happened if Simoun of El Filibusterismo was able to blow up that disguised bomb. Put all politicians on a single room…get one truck load of C4 explosives and blow it..then and only then will we see hope for our beloved country. Till that happens I will continue to finish up on my course of B.S. Nursing and join Jim Paredes in Australia!


  3. Great read again Sir Jim… As you were saying about compelling figures in history to appear and clear the shadows in our nation’s history, I can’t help but smile and imagine the paintings in the office of Hogwarts’ Headmaster… 🙂

    I believe that even if one is able to summon them from the other world it would be diffcult still to ferret the truth from them, knowing that they decided to keep it with them until death….

    I also think that if we continue to sourly dwell with these undelivered justice of the past we also put ourselves in a degree of helplessness and cynicism….

    While it is easy to say that we must continue to hope, to act and to raise the awareness of others, we know that this road is a difficult trek, and certainly, I also do not see the completion of this task in the next elections or so…

    A nation cannot rise above the consciousness of its people. Thus, I echo the wisdom that Rizal has passed on to us… Our hope lies in the youth… If we expect our country to change, we must raise a generation that can effect that change…

    My two cents… 🙂

  4. DaveLock says:

    Nice piece Jim. I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    With regards to Justice Einfeld’s sentencing which I feel you’ve held up as an example here, don’t you think it strange that Liberal-aligned tall poppies like Einfeld now face the music when a Labor government is in power? I’m not for a moment defending Einfeld or what he has done, but I strongly believe Einfeld would have evaded prosecution had the Liberals still been in power, just as John Singleton has mysteriously escaped his speeding fines, & John Howard’s brother Stan mysteriously evaded prosecution etc. The same applies when Labor is in power, so neither side are saints.

    My belief Jim is the biggest difference between the 2 societies is that the public figures here in Aus have used alot of public funds to create smoke & mirrors to cover our corruption. Here, corruption is systemic or institutionalised, whereas in the Philippines it’s brazen, open & localised. In some regards, having it brazen & open is a step closer towards cleaning it up, assuming the will to do so exists of course.

    One could argue that the sacking of currently sitting judges in the Philippines, such as CA Justice Roxas recently, shows greater integrity towards a just system. When was the last time a sitting judge here in Aus was held publicly accountable?

    If anything, it is the Filipino attitude towards rules & laws in general that lets them down the most. Justifying the breaking of rules seems to be a national pastime, hehe. It’s strange to me that the Filipinos are such an obedient people by nature, yet put a rule – any rule – in place & they just see it as an irresistible challenge to break that rule. And that occurs at all levels – the only difference between a judge taking bribes & a voter selling their vote is the opportunity.

    I think if you scratch the surface deep enough, then you’ll see the same corruption & lack of morals in both countries, it’s just that you have to scratch much deeper here because it’s well hidden within the system. Personally, I’d rather see the corruption. At least that way you know it’s there, & you have half a chance of avoiding it.


  5. jimparedes says:

    Corruption exists everywhere, to be sure. But Australian corruption or the level of injustice that people go through is nowhere near what Filipinos are subjected to. Was Australia ever in the list of the most corrupt countries?

    I think it is fair to say that when a prominent person kills someone in Aus, he/she will go to jail. There are cases of prominent Filipinos who literally got away with murder, drug-trafficking and other grave offenses and continue to do so. There are coup plotters who run for public office—and win.

    Many everyday Filipinos are subjected to simple injustices like blatant extortion on various levels, robbery, and assault in the streets. One cannot trust or rely on the police or the justice system to do their jobs in the Philippines while one can generally rely on Aussie cops and judges to deliver justice a great deal of the time. And with dispatch.

    There are corrupt people with doubtful morality everywhere including Oz. It’s just that ours is more entrenched in the system in all levels. One need not look far to experience it. That’s why Filipinos cannot be categorical about who their heroes and villains are. The system can’t handle the truth.

  6. DaveLock says:

    Good points Jim. Thanks. 🙂


  7. thomas f says:

    there’s some truth to what DaveLock said. but in australia, for example, at least you can see where the taxpayers’ money go to and the reason why this country is first-world. the philippines, being a third-world nation and poverty is evident everywhere you go, has some of the richest politicians on the planet.
    avoiding corruption as davelock suggested? i did. i left the country.

  8. John Santiago says:

    I would like to disagree with Dave to the highest degree about his comparison of corruption between the Phils and Australia. To say that Australia is just as corrupt as the Philippines and the only difference is the legal lid cover that australian politicians have erected is blatantly false. Its not the case entirely and the severity of impropriety by the politicians here in Phils borders on Idi Amin proportions.

    The level and entrenched culture of corruption and the way it is tolerated here in the Philippines is world class! No OECD country belongs to the category that the Philippines belongs to.

    In Australia a Prime Minister can be arrested and given a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. I doubt any police officer would even arrest Mikey Arroyo onsite even if he shot a person in broad daylight! At the very least he might even be escorted to a place like a resthouse fit for a king!

    Thats the fundamental difference. The real sadness in the above situation is that the people accepts it as a reality.

  9. Mario says:

    A good and timely commentary on the ills of Philippine society, excellent as always Jim.

    I’ve read somewhere [can’t recall where] that English justice system; swift and fair is what differentiates how the English ran their colonies. Compare all the countries that has been under English and Spanish colonizations; nd one will get the great differences how each country turned out.

    I believe our primary problem in the Philippines is that we are easy to forgive as well as forget; especially if the perpetrator is from the elite class. We tend to take to the hilt our Christian value of “giving the other cheek” to the detriment of the victims of crimes.

    Classic example is the pardoning of former Pres Estrada, the pardoning of Jalosjos and recently those 12 soldiers who participated in the murder of Sen Ninoy Aquino. It gives a clear message that everyone will “makakalusot” in the end. This is what the ultimate lesson the common Filipino learns everyday. Kung makakalusot, lulusot lang. Everyone, from the highest government functionary to the lowest laborer flaunts the law, and most get away with it. Hence the corruption everywhere.

    Even the NPAs murder their own [Kintanar as alleged by his widow, Joy Jopson-Kintanar to cover JoMa’s hand in the Liberal bombings of the 60’s and probably for other dirty deeds].

    Either we line up every politico, drug pusher, corrupt businessman, corrupt functionary in a firing squad wall; or continue to educate every Filipino one at a time beginning with ourselves. CJ Puno is in the right path when he admonished every Filipino to take a moral stand. We must uncover every corruption, lies, etc as fast as they are made. One corruption at a time and one change one Filipino at a time and hopefully we can all go back home!

  10. DaveLock says:

    I would like the opportunity, if I may, to clarify my comments because I feel they’ve been unfairly taken out of context. At no time did I suggest that every single aspect in the Phil & Aus societies are identical except for a “legal lid” existing in Aus. But this seems to be how it’s being portrayed.

    When Jim’s reply contained mention of prominent people being killed etc., I realised that the discussion was beyond the scope of my reply comments (most likely my mis-interpretation), hence why I respectfully replied with an acknowledgement of his good points.

    The example John S has quoted of the first gentlemen not being held accountable in Phil even if he committed murder, whereas our PM being arrested for not wearing a seatbelt, is so far beyond the scope of my comments, it is an injustice to think that my comments would ever cover that.

    I guess what is needed here is a defining scope of what the magic “corruption” word covers in this context. If the word is to figuratively cover everything from a pothole in the road to political executions, then that is too broad a scope for any one reply to address, including mine. My comments were aimed towards the level of corruption that includes public & influential officials taking bribes, public & influential officals enjoying favourable treatment, public & influential officials bending the laws to favour their own ends. In this context, I stand by my comments that this does indeed also happen here in Aus, albeit at a more systemic level. To say it doesn’t is naive and is contrary to much evidence.

    I abhore the political killings, kidnappings, flagrant stealing etc in Phil as much as anybody does – it is absolutely wrong in anybody’s language. But I believe with many of the “everyday” problems in Phil society that have been mentioned here, the average Filipino can shoulder some of the responsibility for that, rather than continually blame a conspiracy of the elite (or the Spanish) for it. It dismays me when I see Filipinos who have now left the Philippines, destroying their former homeland in so many ways. For example, I personally know of about a half dozen Filipinos living locally here who are currently saving furiously & accumulating their holiday leave, preparing to once again go back to the Philippines in 2010 to assist their family members buy votes for re-election from their former kababayan. This is another example that if given the opportunity, average Filipinos will unfortunately victimise their own peers.

    As a 6ft, blonde haired, blue eyed foreigner, I get to experience the opportunistic side of the Filipinos every time I’m there (as I will again in 2 weeks), as a prime target for everything from prices tripling before my eyes, to robbery. But I look beyond that to see a beautiful country filled with beautiful & talented people I deeply love & repect, who really do care about each other. If my love for the Philippines & belief in the Filipino people offends some here, then I apologise for that. But I don’t apologise for having that opinion, of which I believe I’m entitled to have one. 🙂


  11. patrick says:

    “I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans, because however bad a Filipino government might be, it can always be improved.”

    Pres. Quezon

    I do hope it would improved cause my Patience is wearing thin!

  12. John Santiago says:

    “Here, corruption is systemic or institutionalised, whereas in the Philippines it’s brazen, open & localised. In some regards, having it brazen & open is a step closer towards cleaning it up, assuming the will to do so exists of course.” – Dave

    First point, in the case of the Phils. “brazen, open and localised is NOT in any way a step closer in cleaning anything up. Period.

    Secondly…there is no will to change as to what presently exists…if we are to judge the whole political landscape.

    My example may have been extreme but it was straight to the point of the cultural and political differences when it comes to tolerating corruption in both countries. Your post was not misinterpreted at all. Simply put, Australia is not as corrupt as you think. When you say “institutionalised or systemic corruption”…you simply cannot categorise a country that can boot out then Prime Minister Howard who has been in power for so long who not only lost the highest position, but also losed his seat of Bennelong from a neophyte political babe like Maxine Mckew. A “sheila” slaying the ephemereal political dragon of the Liberals? Wether its Workchoices, Medicare Gold or what have you that caused the downfall one thing is certain…its the australian people that called the shots. An election that is finished after a couple of hours closing of the ballot. That simply does not happen in the Philippines. A month and about 100 assasination attempts after and there is still no winner. All losers are cheated or so they say….and thats only the election.

    Wait till your “6 ft, blonde haired, blue eyed, foreigner” looks gets the eye of the kidnap for ransom groups…then you’ll know how different it really is. No Bikie Gang can match how gruesome and creative they can be. Then again you probably know that as you seem well versed. Makes me wonder even more..You must really love your wife. Enjoy your stay in the Phils in two weeks!


  13. Jesse Jocson says:

    What you have written actually was, in every, if not most, been the topic with some of my friends in cyberspace e-group scattered all over the planet.
    It really drive me mad, knowing majority of the masses, watchers for good governance, to name a few, have knowledge of all those corruptions, unsolved murders and crimes, and all those BS in every administration and societies just going around daily like the polluted air we breath, and nothing being done.
    We look for reasons, the why’s, the who’s fault, to blame,
    etc.. Is it the culture? Colonialization? Education? Religion? Patriotism? Discipline? Moral? You tell me.
    IMHO, the problem lies mostly with our own countrymen.
    I.e.,I just wondered and have noticed why, majority of pinoys living abroad can obey the rules of their chosen country but when they go back to visit their mother land, they’re back with their attitude and character the way they used to lived in ‘pinas.

    It’s really a looooooooong and winding road for a cure.
    As the saying goes “Only in the Philippines”
    My one centavo thought.
    Thank you Mr. Jim P. and more power to you.

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