The Ends Justify the Means

Has the fight against corruption become like the war on terror?

Remember the ‘war on terror’? It seems ‘so last decade’ right? Do you remember how it ended? When ‘dubya’ launched it, he framed it in high moralistic terms: fighting for ‘the cause of freedom’, bringing justice to ‘those evil-doers’, ‘preserving our way of life’. Yet, in their pursuit of the perpetrators of 911, the Americans and their ‘coalition of the willing’ ended up dispensing with the very ideals they sought to uphold.

In their desire to ‘even the score’, the agents of this war trampled upon the basic freedoms and human rights that their sacred document considered ‘to be self-evident’. To bring the outlaws to justice, they may have violated international law. They tortured suspected individuals, detained them indefinitely without charge, denied them the right to a fair trial, and did this all at the expense of the taxpayer. The total bill for this war was largely responsible for the ballooning deficit of the US Federal Government.

We now turn our attention to the Philippines and its fight against corruption. The same sort of high-minded rhetorical flourishes accompany it. The same sort of idealistic pursuit of justice, freedom and preservation of democracy motivate it. The fear was that the Evil One deemed responsible for the ‘ground zero’ of corruption was ‘heading for the hills’ in the same way that the Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden did and was not to be found until many years later.

The same way that evidence of mass destruction was presented before the UN to justify a ‘pre-emptive strike’ on a sovereign country ‘a smoking gun’ has been dug up from questionable sources to convict an ‘enemy of the state’ in the minds of the public, which upon closer examination appears to be a mere fabrication (just as the evidence against Saddam apparently was).

‘Had we rushed to war?’ was the burning question in their minds after the US occupation of Iraq was in full swing. America had gotten itself mired in a decade long conflict all because in the heat of the moment, its president used the heroism of those who suffered from terror attacks to force his views on Congress to authorize a war that later proved to be misguided. His trigger-happy administration learned to rue the day that it did this.

Similarly has the prosecution of the war on graft led to some dead ends in the case of the Aquino administration? The articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Corona which were rushed through the lower house now seem to suffer incurable infirmities. Many of the charges seem baseless. The charges that do matter don’t seem to match the evidence presented. The prosecution’s appeal to the jury to look beyond legal formalities is an admission that their case is inherently weak.

A much deeper worry is the implication that a vendetta mission had been afoot as early as November of last year. If one follows the paper trail of leaked documents, the logical conclusion would be that instruments of government were used inappropriately and illegally to gather evidence against targeted officials. The conclusion would be that the very same ideals that the fight against corruption seeks to uphold have had to be compromised to achieve its goals in an ‘ends justifies the means’ sort of way. How then should we describe it? The word ‘Kafkaesque’ comes to mind.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    If you can’t refute the evidence then you attack the procedure, isn’t that the cardinal rule among lawyers? Reminds me of Galileo. If the Vatican had more lawyers during his time, it would have banned telescopes instead of condemning Galileo.

    How should Art 2 be appreciated, in terms of the evidence presented or in terms of how the evidence was presented? How would you weigh the scales, in favor of substance or form? 

    Based on the documents that have been presented so far, do you still believe the CJ’s SALNs were truthful? 

    As to the allegation that the charges against Corona are a part of vendetta missions, prosecution for one is persecution for the other. It all depends on where you sit. One man’s freedom fighter is the other man’s terrorist. 

    • So in effect you excuse the conduct of the war on corruption by saying that ‘all is fair in love and war’. The same fog of war argument that was used in the war on terror. That really says a lot about the standards with which you judge the conduct of that war.

      On the one hand you argue that right is right, and that we all know a crime has been committed, but on the other hand, you say that in order to prosecute the criminal, it is perfectly fine to engage in activities that violate the bill of rights and the law, so long as we are on the side of the good. That it is all relative to where you sit.

      As I said before, care must be given that in our vigilance to protect our freedom, we don’t turn to vigilantism. Otherwise we turn into the very thing we seek to destroy.

      • Manuelbuencamino

        No. You are saying that.  I had four questions, how would you answer them?

        The last paragraph was an observation on your allegation. It shows me exactly where you sit as far as holding Corona and the entire GMA mob is concerned.

        Now here’s what I’m saying directly. Corona’s impeachment is a question of public policy. It is political. It is not a criminal procedure. There is a difference, a big one. He is not in danger of imprisonment. He is in danger of being thrown in the trash heap of history because of certain facts that have been discovered. 

        If the time ever comes that he is charged criminally then I will be with you in making sure the State adheres to due process. Like you I do not want a police state. I sided with the Alabang Boys against the PDEA. They were caught possessing but the manner of their arrest was not according to law. So it was okay by me that the evidence against them was thrown out. Not so with Corona because the issue with him is whether or not he is fit to continue as Chief Justice. Consequently, in assessing his fitness, any information for or against him must be taken into account regardless how they were acquired. The issue in deciding a matter policy is the veracity of the information and not how it came to light.

        In brief, strict adherence to due process in criminal cases, Absolutely. In impeachments, knowing all the facts is the best way to reach a decision. Let us not confuse the two otherwise we will end up destroying freedom and our society. 

        • J_ag

          It took all of three hours for the House to approve the articles of impeachment. 

          Even before the impeachment trail of Clinton he was subjected to years of investigation. 

          Before the articles of impeachment of Nixon it was the U.S. Congressional hearings that dug up almost all the dirt to include the existence of the Nixon tapes that forced Nixon to resign. 

          That would mean the allegations in the complaint were already backed up by strong evidence.  

          Why no allegations of bribery?  Because when the articles were approved a lot of the facts had not yet been investigated and collected. 

          Sayang,  as all can see there are a lot of smoking guns exposed during the trial but the charges were not carefully thought out.  

          If MB was criminally charged for car theft and in the trail it came out that he killed someone in the course of the theft, a separate charge will have to be drawn out and filed.  In the case of Corona the only agency in government that has a probable case to go after him would be the BIR. If they then come out with something solid to charge him with then he would probably resign. 

          Free first class trips on PAL plus all those discrepancies in his SALN.  But for his impeachment based on what has come out he will be exonerated. 

          • Anonymous

            with manufactured evidence seemingly a-okay to be manufactured from a Malakanyang that knows what Pilipinas laws should be, what a missed opportunity.   The missed opportunity was to have gotten Corona thrown in jail.. (the justice, not the wife). and then it would have been a slam-dunk a  jailbird canNOT be a Supreme court justice even if such words are not written in the 1987 Constitution..

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Jag,

            You feel comfortable with a chief justice who lies on his SALNs? 

  • J_ag

    The Philippine State is very obviously still in a infant state of development. However the separate but equal branches of the State may be this countries saving grace.  

    The Executive bamboozles the House of Representatives in short-cutting the filing an impeachment case but it appears the Senate is tearing up most of the complaint based on the flaws in the complaint itself. 

    Can the Executive recover from this fiasco that clearly show an immature and incompetent executive when it comes to due process. 

  • Anonymous

    Food for thought —  the backers corporate-and-personal of Dubya did say “… war not over yet…”.. then they madeit happen —>>> “Dubya — One More Term!!!”   

    Would PersiNoynoy listen to the voices?  Abangan!!!! Would PersiNoynoy ignore Pilipinas Constitution? Kinda like a slam-dunk what the answer can be for one who listens to voices.

    • Manuelbuencamino

      The Constitution can be amended, and violated, through judicial misinterpretation. A good example is the SC ruling that GMA did not violate the constitution when she appointed Corona. Now you show me when President Aquino violated the Constitution. By the way, if you’re going to pull an example out of your ass, make sure you wash it well before you wipe it on this page.

  • Anonymous

    One would think that Department of Justice would, by now, have announced a grand-jury of sorts to investigate fabrication of evidence.   But fabricating is a riskless action for those who know that PersiNoynoy has their back.

  • GabbyD

    how do u know the paper trail leads to govt agencies targetted officials?