COLUMN: RECONCILIATION

MANILA, January 2, 2004 (STAR) A law each day (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Jose C. Sison - This is the year when the "voice" of the people will once more be "heard" during May general elections. People hopefully await this event as it gives them the chance to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the politicians in power. But with the kind of political game being played right now, the air is filled with apprehension and anxiety, rather than hope. The horizon presents a gloomy picture of a most divisive and deadly electoral war between the discarded politicians of past dispensations out to regain power and bring back the "profitable" times when they never had it so good, and those now in power who would want to continue serving the people allegedly because they were not given enough time to implement their program of government what with so many ruinous disruptions thrown along their way by the opposition.

Our politics has undoubtedly become too personal as to be divisive, damaging, bitter and passionate. Those "appeasement" moves of the administration should thus be appreciated rather than criticized as a sign of weakness. What the country needs now is really some cold spell from the heat generated by too much politics. The shift in the attitude towards the country’s most famous jailbird ousted by people power is obviously one such gesture of reconciliation. Aside from being transferred to a more "luxurious jail", he is now even allowed to go abroad for medical treatment of a bum knee. Call it politics or what-not, the move is a typical Filipino trait of compassion and rapprochement. Nothing wrong with it except that the gesture should be more equitably distributed as to extend to other detention prisoners who are languishing in congested cells with inhuman facilities. Diverting just a small fraction of attention and money to other detainees held for lesser offenses would certainly erase the impression of compartmentalized justice. While an ex-President deserves a more honorable treatment, it is not asking too much if the detention facilities of other accused be likewise improved in keeping with their dignity as human beings.

Reconciliation is really the appropriate policy to adopt this year. It may be what the country needs at this time of too much divisiveness in our midst. The President indeed is given the power of executive clemency, such as the granting of reprieve, commutation, pardon and amnesty as tools of reconciliation. To be ethical, however, there must be some form of repentance and reparation on the part of the subject of the clemency. This is the only way that justice can be tempered with charity or mercy. Hence our laws also rule out any compromise of criminal offenses. The criminal offender must not only show remorse but must also repair the damage done to society. And reparation precisely includes some form of undergoing punishment. The power of executive clemency should be exercised in accordance with this principle. While the president is likewise given the power to grant amnesty to offenders even before the institution of the criminal case as it is the essence of amnesty to overlook or obliterate the offense with which he is charged, amnesty only refers to political offenses and not to other crimes punishable by our penal code and special laws like murder, plunder, graft and corruption etc.

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E-mail: jcson@info.com.ph


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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