In defense of law

My foray into criminology has properly introduced me into a subject I previously deemed uninteresting: law. I used to simply dismiss this particular subject as the epitome of boring.

stack of law booksPerhaps, it is those gigantic books I imagine law students to be reading. They are very huge.

Seriously, their books and bound in a very formalistic manner: in plain color with the letters embedded in. It’s not something that screams, “Pick me up!” It’s the kind of books that you’ll just pass by in a book store simply because of an utter lack of appeal.

I have two of them in my shelf. One, despite being small by comparison, managed to be about an inch thick. It’s hard cover, in plain black, and the titles are written in gold. The other one, about three times as thick, is not so different besides the cover being maroon.

The print doesn’t help them either. It’s as basic as can be, in simple black serif.

Books the like of which are the sort which I would never have picked up, opened and read. I used to not even read books let alone a law book.

Then, in comes criminology and I started taking such courses as Criminal Law.

I would never have imagined myself actually wanting to read through the black book outside of class hours but I did. For one reason alone: the law is one of the trickiest thing there is.

I have already said once before that the law isn’t perfect and that no humanly-devised system has ever achieved anything close. Whatever system humans have devised, there is bound to be a loophole here, a confusing precept here, a baffling provision somewhere.

And that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

The job of a good defense lawyer is not all about making his/her client look right but also finding such confounding statements in the letter of the law and using it in their favor.

It’s almost so vicious an idea but it’s the truth – that which I have learned in the few courses I’ve had with law.

I know I said in the title that this is in defense of the law and this almost doesn’t sound like it. Of course, nowhere does it specify which kind of defense I am to give neither does it say to whom I am voicing my defense. And that is what makes it so great.

On Death Penalty

The death penalty is one of the most controversial punishments for a crime. Some, most especially the church, are on the opinion that it isn’t humane and is rather a crime,  it’s just not right. While some say that it is only fitting to have those criminals executed.

A few years ago, the Philippines abolished the death penalty. All those who were on the death row were, instead, given a life sentence. Today, after the consecutive killings and burnings of some used car dealers, some people are petitioning for it to put back on the law. But what exactly are the merits, if any, of this kind of punishment?

The way I see it, the only good thing that can come out of it is that there will be less people in the prisons. However, some people think that the death penalty is a good way of scaring criminals and, therefore, there will be less of them. How true is that?

Anyway, if I were cruel enough and am sympathetic about someone who’s been murdered, I’d rather have that criminal rot away and suffer in prison. If I were so kind, I’d rather let that criminal live and think that maybe he can change and become a good person later. I do believe people are either one of two: one who sees evil in everybody else and one who sees good in every person.

But, lets go back to the question above. What are the merits of this thing in question? If I were to see it as a merit, then I should cite that, indeed, there will be a slightly smaller number of prisoners in jail. And, in consequence to that, there’ll be a smaller number of people to feed and secure. Second, maybe, just maybe, it is a form of kindness to end someone’s suffering. There was always that thing about death not being the worst thing that can happen to a person.

I guess, those are the only rather good things I can see about it. Do I have to look further? I don’t think so. I definitely cannot see it as a way to lessen possible crimes. “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Most especially, if we are to speak of the hardened criminals. Or so, I think.

How about the demerits? Quite a few, I think. First, to counter one the so-called “merits” above, it will still cost to execute the people in the death row. No matter what method the forces will choose to use, there will always be expenditures.

Second, there is always the moral issue about it. Even if those are criminals who are sitting on the death row, those are still human lives which would have to be taken away by another human, be it by machine or poison. Someone’s death will still have to be in the hands of another person. I don’t think that the role of the executioner is such a sought-after job.

Another thing would be the possibility of an error. In every investigation –  hypotheses, deductions, conclusions – there is always a margin of error, isn’t there? Besides that, there will always exist the ministrations of the powerful and the influential. And how many innocent people have died for the crimes of others? I couldn’t tell.

Lives are always wasted for the wrong reasons everyday. This only alters the state of the minds of people in varying degrees. There was that time when the death penalty was in place. Then, people wished for it to be gone – for various reasons. Now, they want it back. Clearly, people are looking for the ‘perfect” justice system. Unfortunately, wherever you go in this world, such a thing does not exist.

Legal Ignorance: So Not Bliss

It’s been almost two weeks since the hostage-taking incident, staged by former police officer Rolando Mendoza, at the Quirino Grandstand occurred. However, the issue is still far from losing attention. People are still waiting for its real conclusion while the police forces are still doing investigations. China is still waiting for a sound and believable result before allowing the Philippines’ high-level delegation to enter their country.

At the same time, the approval rating of Pres. Noynoy Aquino continues to go down. People have been criticizing his actions during the tragic day: not answering calls, seemingly hiding. People are saying that he could have done something so as not to lead the event to a tragic end.

For the last few days, I have been questioning those who are questioning the president as to what he could have possibly done in a military operation. Apparently, I have been wrong.

I have learned from high school that the President of the Republic of the Philippines is also recognized as the Commander-in-Chief of the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But my opening lecture this morning on the Philippine Constitution this morning taught me what exactly being a commander-in-chief means. I was very wrong in my understanding as to how much power this vests on a person.

Maybe I was just too naive, but, apparently, Pres. Aquino could’ve simply talked to the hostage taker and try to have a compromise with him for the release of the hostages. It should not have been a wonder why the hostage-taker thought of the ombudsman’s letter as trash.

But I don’t have anything against Pres. Aquino. Maybe, like I was, he didn’t know how much power he had in his hands – which can be a good thing. In the first place, he did not want to be president. Or so he said. Just to quote my professor, “He knew it in himself that he was not ready to be president.”

Of course, Filipinos have that certain trait of being captivated by fame and judging people simply according to lineage.

I can’t blame, however, blame Pres. Aquino for not knowing the extent of his powers. Besides, it’s a given that he wasn’t able to do much while he was in the senate. Given that, we cannot possibly expect him to know more than enough.

One thing, though: he needs to do his homework.

The Law of the Garbage Truck

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven …. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”1

Mike Benson asks, “How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood?

“Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? The mark of a successful [mature] person is how quickly he/she can get back his/her focus on what’s important.

“I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car’s back end by just inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly.

“So, I said, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital.’ And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’ He said, ‘Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.’

“I started thinking, how often do I let garbage trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the streets? It was that day I said, ‘I’m not going to do it anymore.'”2

However, as many of us know, that’s easier said than done. When we overreact to people who “dump their garbage” on us, we need to realize that what the other person does is his or her problem—but to the degree that we overreact that is our problem. To react in a Christ-like manner, it is imperative that we resolve our “garbage.” If we don’t, we will be forever allowing others to control our moods and trigger our unresolved problems.

from DailyEncounter, 02-21-2008