Saturday, December 9, 2023

Delivering Stories of Progress


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By Atty. Howie Calleja

Her words say it all … “It pains me to be jailed without doing anything wrong. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. But I don’t want to be sad or bitter today. This is a moment of triumph.” Truly, it was a moment of victory when Former Senator Leila de Lima was finally granted bail after being jailed since 2017 after her vocal campaign against former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”.

Judge Gener Gito said the prosecution “was not able to discharge its burden of establishing that the guilt of the said accused is strong,” and as such decided to grant bail to former Sen. De Lima, after almost 6 years of being detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, after being implicated in drug trafficking operations at the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice secretary.

As I used the phrase “FREE AT LAST” for this article, I recall Dr. King as he concluded his transformative speech with the words, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Freedom is sure to be attained by all once we truly get that the freedom that we enjoy must be given to everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation … or for this instance POLITICAL IDEOLOGY.

The strength of our criminal justice system is contingent on its accurateness — its ability to convict the guilty and to clear the innocent. But we know that wrongful convictions happen. Identifying and understanding the causes of wrongful convictions is critical to maintaining the integrity of our justice system. A conviction may be classified as wrongful for two reasons: (1) The person convicted is factually innocent of the charges; and (2) There were procedural errors that violated the convicted person’s rights — both of which were experienced by former Senator Lelia.

It even becomes more abusive when Political considerations influence our justice system in a direct way. Prosecutors are appointed and are heavily involved in local politics. Being political appointees, our justice department tend to mesh their career ambitions to the needs of political exigency — Using one’s position within the justice system as a springboard for higher political office. Occasionally, an unscrupulous prosecutor will abuse power in the worst way: Acting on the basis of political motives, the prosecutor will engage in political prosecutions by pressing criminal charges against political enemies.

Hope springs eternal. “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine”, a metaphor attributed to both ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers, acknowledges the often-slow pace of attaining justice but advises patience because eventually justice is achieved. in the end, God’s justice is always served — and I am happy that Sen. Delima’s time for justice has finally come.

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