OpinionsEcon 101‘Fugitive from injustice’

‘Fugitive from injustice’

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The recently-surfaced Sen. Panfilo Lacson claims he was a “fugitive from injustice”. He had to get out of the Philippine jurisdiction before a Warrant of Arrest was issued against him.

His story is well-documented and covered by the tri-media. His saga was extraordinary because he had the means and the capacity to stay out of the country for 14 months. In the interim, his lawyers were successful in having the Warrant of Arrest quashed by the Court of Appeals.

By and large, most people do not have any idea how a criminal charge is filed and managed by the Department of Justice. When a criminal charge is filed against any person, the Prosecution Office is supposed to act on it, inform the Respondent so that he can file his counter-affidavit within 10 days.

This is a crucial point because if one does not file any counter, the Prosecution Office will resolve the matter based on the evidence filed by the Complainant for a finding of probable cause. Once a finding of probable cause is made, this will be elevated to the proper court, and a Warrant of Arrest will be issued accordingly.

When a Warrant of arrest is issued, the Accused has to be arrested and detained, unless he files a bail bond if the crime is bailable. This is the most tricky part because even if one claims to be innocent, he will be detained pending the hearing of his case in court — which may take as long as 10 years, at the extreme.

This is why Senator Lacson opted to go under the radar because he may have been arrested and detained inspite of his alleged claims of innocence.

How many persons have been detained for many years even if after hearing, they are later found to be innocent? Some of them are just unable to come up with the money or property for the bail bond. Some of them are detained for more than the penalty for the crime they allegedly committed.

The story of Senator Lacson highlights the gaps in our justice system, which also highlights the plight of those who are poor and disadvantaged.

Being poor is not a crime but it might as well be a crime because being able to obtain justice requires money. There is no free ride even in our justice system. You have to come up with the amount for the bail bond, or you may be charged with a non-bailable offense, and for which you can be detained indefinitely, while the case is pending.

This is the premise of President Noy-noy Aquino when he stated his stand on the death penalty: “In a perfect world, only the guilty criminals would be meted out death penalty, but the reality is, there are innocent people on death row.”

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