The recent case involving broadcaster Ted Failon and the police mirrors the police and military conduct in the country. The harassment we saw on TV by the police officers evokes some kind of empathy to the accused irrespective of whether he is guilty of the crime against him or not – since we witness how human dignity is abused. How much more, if we know how the police and military tortured and detained suspects beyond the legal period and worst learned that many petty criminals in Davao City and those suspected as terrorists or threats to the national security were summarily executed? The lack of effort by the authorities to investigate the crimes and bring those responsible to justice pictures out the lack of respect and protection of human right in the country today. Aside from the lack of political will of our leaders to solve these cases, democratic structures do not guarantee either.
In normal situations, we do not lose our human rights. Simply put, the right to due process while under arrest or detention by the police or military are composed of a bundle of rights that will ensure our utmost protection and dignity under the law of any country: the right to be informed of the crime against us or why we are arrested, the right to remain silent, the right to counsel either by our own choice or be provided, the right not be compelled to testify against oneself or the right against self-incrimination. These also involved our inviolable rights such as the right to life, right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to freedom of expression. In the course of the prosecution, we can enjoy other rights but the adherence to the above-mentioned rights is usually an indicator of as working judicial system, of a democratic and freedom-loving society. Unfortunately, we are not. The legal dictum that states, “Anyone accused of a crime is presumed not guilty until proven otherwise in the proper court of law”, is never really practiced as much in the country.
The ignorance of the law on both sides is clear in the case involving Ted Failon. Of the rights under due process, a suspect is often informed only of the alleged crime against him but never of the other rights he ought to enjoy. The rest of the rights are relegated to the discretion of the arresting officer. The victim could also resist arrest, as much as he could, if he knows that some of his rights are violated and those around him could also act in his defense. In most military arrest, the witnesses to the arrest were not even informed where the suspect will be brought. And worst the relatives of the victims are even denied of the knowledge whether the victim is still alive or, if he is dead, where his body could be found.
There are various efforts in educating the people of their rights and the military and police in the respect and protection of human rights. But there are still much to do as we cannot hear so much about reform inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines, human rights agenda in the government and communities able to protect a member from abuses. Unless we hear of an individual in a remote village invoking his human rights upon arrest and a military abuser in prison, we believe we have a long way to go as far as educating the people of their rights. (dani)