(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
As 13 year-old Angelica walked out of the court room she was crying her heart out. Her friends from the PREDA home for abused girls were hugging and embracing her trying to give her comfort. She felt she had been cheated, violated again and again every time the Clerk of Court reading the court's decision declared her rapist "not guilty". Every count was dismissed on one technicality after another. The accused stood there smirking, as if knowing the outcome in advance.
Clever lawyers, weak uncaring prosecutors and a lazy ignorant judge seemed to be on the take and caused the emotional and mental anguish to Angelica and a life long trauma. So a trial is a money making sham and the fig leaf for the impunity enjoyed by the bribe making accused. Bribery is usually assumed then such cases are decided in favor of the accused despite strong evidence.
Without a well paid private prosecutor child victims don't have a chance of winning a case and getting justice. The abuser goes free laughing all the way to his next victim and many more after that. It's estimated that a child abuser has up to a hundred victims before being caught. Such corrupt officials are co-rapists in my view. When a person knows in his or her conscience that a crime has been committed and the evidence is strong and clear and then acts against it, that's a crime in itself.
Impunity is the norm when it comes to child sexual abuse cases. The child rapists, traffickers, sex abusers and assassins are seldom caught, charged or convicted. Police too can get away with brutality and torture since they are seldom investigated and brought to trial.
The gruesome massacre and mutilation of some 57 people that included 32 journalists in Maguindanao, in Southern Philippines two years ago on November 23, shocked the international press. It was the worst attack ever recorded against media practitioners. No convictions yet and little hope of justice it seems.
The horrific crime allegedly perpetrated by the Ampatuan clan to block there political rival from entering the elections is still in the preliminary stages. Only 93 suspects out of 196 have been arrested and of those only 29 have been arraigned. Eight months were lost due to petitions of the accused for the judge to inhibit herself. Out of 300 prosecution witnesses only 72 have been presented in court. The accused have applied for bail which is the center of the legal battle at present.
Media practitioners around the world have declared November 23 as "The international Day to end Impunity". The Southeast Asian Press alliance led by Executive director Gayyathry Venkiteswaran, based in Thailand and an advocate of the campaign against impunity says that "Impunity is a chromic failure by states, judiciary, and law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators to justice". In Wikipedia we find the following definition of impunity, "In the international law of human rights, it refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a denial of the victims' right to justice and redress".
The blatant and obvious failure of the state to convict many accused where the evidence is convincing and strong could be taken as de facto impunity. In such cases the trial is a charade and money writes the favorable judgement. This injustice is the deepest wound in society that causes rebellion and war.
Wherever there is the abuse of power, influence and money and where corruption thrives there is the chance for alleged criminals to evade prosecution through influence and legal loopholes. Bankers are in the spotlight for defrauding investors, depositors and grossly mismanaging the funds entrusted to them by customers. Their excessive greedily huge salaries and bonuses are said to be the cause of the financial ruin of hundreds of thousands of people. Yet they enjoy impunity.
Impunity is never right and while we mourn the assassination of priests, pastors, human rights workers and abused children we must not abandon the pursuit of justice. Those that aid and abet impunity for the criminals are close to being criminals themselves. End