Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Please Pass the SALN

Today’s news in the Philippine Daily Inquirer heralds that “despite misgivings by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, defense lawyers on Monday said they would go ahead with the presentation of the asset declarations of other public officials to prove that Chief Justice Renato Corona did not violate the Constitution as alleged by the prosecution.”
The defense is building up a case by establishing the fact that it is common practice to cheat in the SALN. This is known as the “peanut butter” strategy, a squid tactic that spreads the misconduct...almost everybody is doing it so it must be right. How wrong can you get! The act of cheating in your SALN is inherently and explicitly wrong and no matter how many people are doing it will never make it right...as they say two wrongs do not make a right, neither will it be right even if millions do it. Corona’s being Chief Justice should not hide behind this rationalization because he is “primus interpares” and should lead the example for everybody to emulate. It is expected of somebody who has the authority to rule on what is right and wrong in our lives to be beyond reproach and not to be washed “clean” by virtue of lawyers’ technical arguments. If such an argument prospers I am afraid that we will all be leading lives governed by lawyers; lawyers who seem to have a different social and world view from the rest of us non-lawyers. Woe to us when criminals get away from the arm of the law because of the ability of their “de campanilya” lawyers to look for flaws and loopholes to delay justice or worse to exonerate those who seem to be patently guilty. More woe to us when more cases of blatant guilt are defended by slick and glib shysters who flaunt oratory to mock and distress the innocent. And we are doomed further if the highest magistrate of the land does not have the compunction to right wrongs, is suspected to be one with the those who impugn our laws and one who relishes the provenance provided by a closely knit fellowship working as a cabal to defraud the rest of us with their evil enterprise. The last consolation for the  wretched citizenry is the faith that God, in His infinite wisdom, will take care of imposing divine justice by banishing those who have erred in this world in Gehennah, a place of  fire and brimstone. But even this comeuppance doesn’t seem to be forthcoming when you see some members of the clergy showing their inclination to side with those who make a travesty of the law, some by erudite but pharisiacal legal reasoning, others by just reciprocal expressions of gratitude for past favours granted either personally or for their parishes.
Having laws is good only when it is used to right wrongs; protect the innocent from the guilty; when it is used to ameliorate the citizens’ lot; when it conforms to what is conventionally and culturally accepted morality and what is inherently right; and more importantly, when it is applied judiciously and equitably without fear and favour to anyone. I am afraid this doesn’t seem to fit the description of what is the prevalent practice of law in our country today.
We are all being screwed and tattooed...smile it is all legal.

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