OpinionsGender BenderSomething is rotten in the State of Denmark

Something is rotten in the State of Denmark


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I couldn’t help gazing at her young face on the front page, an early photograph, possibly from the years when we were in the same high school classes in Holy Ghost College on Mendiola St. in Manila.

I’ve written before about Estrellita Nicolas, a quiet girl, not part of my somewhat exuberant group, but who was a good student as I recall. Certainly, we all felt positive about the future, young as we were; the unthinkable future of Estrellita Vizconde was dying of 13 stab wounds, with her 18 year-old daughter gang-raped and killed by 17 stab wounds, and her seven year-old daughter dying of 19 stab wounds. Their convicted and jailed murderers, led by a member of a prominent family, have just been acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The much-quoted line above feels particularly apt now, for many people who feel a deep malaise from successive blows to a sense of order, decency, and justice, blows to our trust in the highest national institutions.

That at other levels, there is often a lack of vision, capability, effectiveness or even corruption is cause enough for demoralization but may not shake us as when it is the Supreme Court or as in the immediate past, the highest official in the land, that are in question.

Shakespeare’s words are of something rotten “in the state” and not just “in Denmark”, referring to problems with their source at the top of the body politic.

Thelma Chiong was in Dumaguete recently. In the terrible Cebu case many years ago, her two daughters disappeared, and the brutally murdered body of one was found.

A more recent blow followed with the turn-over to Spanish custody of one of the six convicted and jailed murderers of her daughter.

A dual citizen, a member of a prominent Cebu family appealed to serve his sentence in a presumably more comfortable Spanish jail than put up with conditions in this country where he committed the crime.

The past Philippine president and the Department of Foreign Affairs apparently had no objection at all to letting him go. Presidential pardons for the most notorious cases of child rape and of murder also marked the closing years of the previous administration. The pardoned often had prominent names.

Years of presidential decisions and acts of questionable legality created during the previous administration, a pervasive sense of rot at the top. We hoped with the passing of that unloved administration to emerge into fresher, cleaner air and the famous “straight road.”

However, some recent high court decisions are causing the smell of rot to linger, for example, disallowing, on weak grounds as legal commentators explain, the establishment of a Truth Commission, and affirming the past administrations’ “midnight appointments.”

Those who closely followed the Vizconde case did note prosecution weaknesses but saw its strengths, too, pointing to the murderers of Estrellita and her daughters.

But now the high court has spoken, and they are free. Apparently the Danish problem of Shakespeare’s literary world continues to afflict us.

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