The Right Against Double Jeopardy

Section 21 of Article 3, Bill of Rights, of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines states that,

No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. If an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.

judge's hammerSimply put, if a person was charged with an offense and the case is terminated without his express consent, whether by conviction or acquittal, that person can never be tried once more for the same offense.

At a surface glance, it can only seem fair that a person should not be punished twice for the same crime. However, a question comes in when the person was acquitted for lack of evidence but, later, some incriminating evidence was found. No matter how strong the evidence may be, it will be rendered insignificant as the suspect holds the right against double jeopardy.

In a perspective, this question closely resembles the question on parole. Like parole, the right against double jeopardy can be questioned for its justifiability. The justifiability of the right against double jeopardy can be questioned simply because, for one, the power of investigating forces can be limited by various circumstances. For example, technology. As in the case of a murder, it used to be that the DNA test was not acceptable and can’t placed as evidence in court or, simply, there used to not be that test. But later developments led to the acceptability of DNA testing and it can be possible that a host of items from a crime scene can be tested which can point to the murderer and, possibly, a person who has been previously acquitted.

Besides changes in technology, a change of people can also matter. Power and influence are two of the biggest things that can steer the way of a court trial. Most of the time, it is just a matter of a bit of cash to turn a would-be trial into a farce. Even if a conviction is supposedly clear, the decision of the judge is still the final word. However, every now and then, very rarely enough, decent people come around to give hope to the family of the victim. In the end, the hope would only be a false one because the suspect has the right against double jeopardy at his defense.

Another question would be on witnesses. These people are a significant part of a court trial. Most of time, witnesses are very hesitant to show up in court for fear of threat to personal security. Sometimes, witnesses can also be paid to simply not show up in court. There are even cases where witnesses are paid to show up in court to give false claims – be they actual bearers of the truth or not. But things can change. That is, in time. And since time can’t keep from moving forward, it might be that it will be too late and the decision can no longer be changed.

Whether it is in the evidence, the witnesses, or the judge and jury, the question against this right is inevitable. However, it is also a given that there is some sound reasoning behind it. But just like every question directed at law or the justice system there is only one certainty: every justice system has its flaws. Humans have not been successful in a creating a perfect system of justice. But as we continue to search for it, we can get desperate. However, as portrayed in Death Note, playing the role of the supreme judge and executing criminals does not make one Justice.

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