By Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM


The icon of Lady Justice is on blindfold because there should be no distinction on the parties concerned. “She has but one scale and weight, for the rich and poor, for the great and small,” writes William Penn, an English religious thinker and writer of the Quaker tradition, one of the early proponents of religious freedom.

But in the Philippines, and maybe in many other countries too, there is one justice for the rich, another for the poor; one justice for the great, another for the small.

On the one hand, Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III, son of the Secretary of Justice, who imported substantial amount of illegal drugs worth more than a million pesos was released to the media only after three days from capture with intentionally blurred mug shots. On the other hand, Matthew Tanglao, a supermarket clerk, was imprisoned for stealing one can of corned beef worth 31 pesos with mug shots for all to see.

On the one hand, Remulla's case has been downgraded to possession of illegal drugs instead of importation of the same. He will not be tested for drug use. His father said once that drug users and drug lords are cockroaches. Now, he wished his son “redemption”. Sana all. On the other hand, some men who have nothing to do with illegal drugs in Payatas but whose name was on the list have no chance to redeem themselves. Without being tested or tried in court, they have been shot and killed.

On the one hand, President Marcos rejects calls for his father’s resignation. Never mind delicadeza which is missing among political servants of our time. On the other hand, the same President (and the previous one) upholds the incarceration of Leila de Lima, using trumped up charges and separation of powers as lame excuse. Never mind if the main witnesses against her recanted.

I recently asked the widows and orphans, on what they think about these events. Here are their replies:

“Lalo lang po nilang pinatutunayan na tanging mahihirap at maliliit na tao lamang, ang tingin nila ay ipis. Kung sana ang Tatay ng anak ko ay kamag-anak ni Remulla… Sana may ama pang tatawagin ang anak ko hanggang ngayon. Nagmamakaawa at nakaluhod ang asawa ko na huwag patayin dahil may mga anak at may sanggol. Pero hindi siya pinakinggan.”

“Kung binigyan sana ng pagkakataon na malitis ang kaso at hindi nila binaril na parang ipis, sana may matatawag na ama ang anak ko ngayon… Napatunayan ko po talaga na ang hustisya ay para lang sa mga taong may kapangyarihan.”

“Mahirap po talagang maging kapos sa buhay. Lalo na kung wala kang pera at kapangyarihan. Yong media nakita mga post nila ng mga nahuli nila. Yong kapitbahay namin na ni-raid, binugbog yong lalaki ng walang kalaban-laban samantalang nandoon lang siya sa loob ng bahay. Grabe ang kapulisan. Nilalagay nila sa kamay nila ang batas.”

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice,” writes Bryan Stevenson, a social justice activist and lawyer. Poverty is not just absence of wealth. People are marginalized into poverty because society and its inequality led them there.

Justice is not just getting a fair hearing in court. That is the least we can expect from society — which the poor do not even get. But justice is beyond that; it is giving everyone equal opportunities in life — legal, economic, social, religious, cultural. We still have a long way to go.

Because society denies them these opportunities, the widows of Payatas (Solidarity with Orphans and Widows) strive to claim it for themselves. They suffered trauma and emotional distress. Some children saw how their fathers were killed on early mornings or middle of the night. They stood up to bind their own wounds themselves. They lost their breadwinners to Duterte’s War on Drugs. They learned skills to become breadwinners themselves. No one knew how to sew when we started. Some of them are too old learn new skills. But they did learn.

Duterte’s War on Drugs was a sham. It has failed. Yet his old minions and the leaders of this new administration continue to “rejoice” in his so-called “legacy”. But such legacy has failed. And their victims’ survival is a slap on their faces.

The killers and their apologists are falling down one after the other, starting with Remulla. The ICC probe will always be Duterte’s and his men’s nightmare. It will haunt them forever.

I will never forget what one old grandmother told when her son was killed: “Father, they want to kill us. No, we will show them, we will live”.

Now, that feelers to withdraw their cases are heard on the ground, they will never surrender. I asked them because I am worried about their being intimidated. No, they told me. They are fighting it to the end. No matter what it takes.

They live to tell their stories and indict their oppressors. And indict all of us, bystanders, who were quiet while our neighbors were slaughtered like pigs, like cockroaches.

The prophet Amos of old warns the leaders of Israel.

I hate, I despise your festivals,
     and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
     I will not accept them,
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like water
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5: 21-24)

Daniel Franklin Pilario, CM
Adamson University