Responsive Ad Slot

Latest

Buhay Pinay

Features

People

Sports

Philippine News

Food Trip

CHINESE HOROSCOPE

Ugaliing makinig!

Join us at Facebook!

Why Pinoy ex-prisoners are scared to go home

08 April 2017

By Mario de los Reyes


In a few months, two of my friends with whom I have been exchanging correspondence will soon be released. But, as their big day is fast approaching, I have noticed a lack of excitement which is so uncharacteristic, given their letters which are usually full of life and inspirational.

This may have something to do with a rumor that has circulated recently among Filipino inmates that a released former convict on a drug-related case was summarily executed back home for unknown reason. Take note, almost all Filipino inmates in Hong Kong prisons are convicted on drug charges so that piece of news sent shivers down the spine.

Their anxieties are further inflamed by media reports on the current political situation in the country. The war on drugs, restoration of the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years from the present 15, among others, are troubling their minds.

The war on drugs has already claimed the lives of more than 8,000 mostly poor Filipinos, according to latest reports. I know the president has a good intention in trying to eradicate the drug menace confronting the country, but the task of enforcing the campaign should have been left to PNP personnel with high moral integrity, and not the scalawags who are probably under the influence and payroll of the drug lords. A thorough background investigation and lifestyle check must be carried out on every officer tasked with carrying out the anti-drug raids.

A case in the point was the killing of the Korean businessman under the guise of a drug bust, but which in reality, was a case of kidnapping for ransom. Just imagine, the main suspect in the elaborate scam and one of the members of the arresting squad turned out to have a net worth of millions of pesos. With his work it was impossible for him to have accumulated this vast amount of money. It is a pure case of unexplained wealth obtained through corrupt practices.

I would like to share that I used to be a member of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary but did not re-enlist because the wages we were paid did not allow us to have a decent living. How then can this officer explain his accumulated wealth? Clean up the rank and file of the police which, as the president himself said, is “corrupt to the core”.

The proposal to restore the death penalty as tabled in Congress is mainly for drug-related cases, which makes it appear as just an extension of the ongoing extrajudicial killings and summary executions as a result of the war on drugs. How about rape, murder and plunder of state coffers? Have these been intentionally omitted to protect those carrying out the ongoing murder of mainly poor Filipinos on the pretext of them being engaged in drug dealing? Was this also designed to exempt those politicians looting the treasury so they will not stop the passing of the bill? This is blatant hypocrisy on a grand scale!

Besides, the death penalty has not proved to be a deterrent to drug traffickers; re-imposing it now could only raise the price of the illicit commodity. That’s what I have learned from those mules who managed to succeed at various times in smuggling drugs into China before the long arm of the law caught up with them in Hong Kong.

In my opinion, containment, not killing, is more appropriate in stopping this drug problem. Educating people on the effect of drugs, plus creating more jobs to reduce unemployment, could curb the practice. It is the lack of jobs that causes most people to turn to drug dealing so they could earn enough to feed their children. There is also the extreme measure of legalizing drugs so their price will nosedive, leaving them with not much practical or financial value.

Moreover, passing the death penalty will put at a disadvantage all Filipinos on death row abroad for drug-related cases, particularly those in the Middle East, and including Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia. How can we ask for mercy or clemency for these Filipinos if our own government is executing its own nationals?

If capital punishment is re-imposed, how sure are we that it will not be used as a tool to exact vengeance on the opposition? Taking into account the recent malfunction in our justice system, many more poor and innocent people could be led to the gallows.

Meanwhile, on the political front, there is the arrest and jailing of Senator Leila de Lima who is an outspoken critic of the president on his war on drugs and extrajudicial killings while he was still the mayor of Davao City. Jailing her only raised her profile and made her fading star shine. A partial and biased judiciary will merely allow those allegations against her stick. Though I still hold a grudge against her since during her time as justice secretary she never replied to my petition letters on getting the transfer of sentenced prisoners implemented, I still wish that she will soon be freed. Unless of course if she is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by an independent and impartial jury.

The wheels of justice do seem to turn rusty when compelling evidence is found against well connected and powerful politicians. Take the Ampatuan case where dozens of journalists became collateral victims of a feud between two powerful political clans. It has been almost a decade since the heinous crimes were committed, but the outspoken widow of one of the journalists had to take refuge here in Hong Kong while awaiting justice to be served her and other family members of the victims.

Another worry besetting my fellow prisoners here who are otherwise elated to be freed is the proposed lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, on the ground that children are often used as tools by criminal syndicates who realize that they cannot be prosecuted. Why are children being blamed for the crimes of adults? Children who are below 15 years of age cannot fully understand what is unlawful, so why don’t the authorities go after the adults who are using and manipulating them? What is the rationale behind this move?

“I pray that this proposed bill will not prosper,” wrote one of them, for her children were left without any parents after she was jailed. Her husband is a migrant worker, so their children were left in the care of her in-laws. Without parental guidance her young children are very vulnerable and could easily be influenced by peers, she lamented.

To lessen her fears, I relayed the information that the killing of our former convict countryman was just a canard, or a form of unfounded rumor which I managed to verify from checking with my acquaintances in the free world.

Don't Miss