Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Justice under the klieg lights

Note: In all attempts to update this blog at least once a week, I am offering as a “sacrificial lamb” this piece on death penalty I entered into the Xpress Urself Literary competition by the Mamamayang Tutol sa Bitay (MTB), wherein the winners get to see their works published! The results are already out. And thankfully, this piece was among the selected essays which will be compiled in the anthology.

Not everyone is fond of the klieg lights. The klieg lights, it seems, don’t favor a lot of people, too, especially when these people are considered deviants in a society like ours, where norms are sacred and violators of which are considered immoral, unethical, and evil. When our system declares an individual guilty of deliberately defying these norms and sentences him to death, the offender is unwittingly thrust into the public spotlight, instantly becoming an icon of crime. And humans, as we are, we instantly carve their profiles in our consciousness, dangerously stereotyping them as the people who don’t deserve to enjoy the same privileges as the rest of the law-abiding citizens do.

Backtracking to Philippine history, nothing much is different. In fact, our earliest ancestors sought justice through what historians call “trial by ordeal”, where the accused are subjected to different trials to prove their innocence or guilt. For example, one method requires the accused offenders to be given lighted candles. The accused whose light runs out first is the guilty one. Another method orders the accused to dive into a river or lake with lances. The first one who surfaces is the guilty one. Strange but true. And the unconventional methods didn’t seem to bother our ancestors for their belief is rooted in the ideology that God sides with the innocent.

Justitia, the goddess of justice, stands as a tall and proud emblem of the justice system. On her left hand, she holds the scales signifying balance and fairness while on her right, she holds a sword, symbolizing the assurance that justice will always be the victor. To represent the impartiality of judgment, she wears a blindfold. This view of the justice system is so idealistic but under a dichotomous society of the rich and the powerful versus the poor and the oppressed, this is too good to be true.

It’s more than an illusion to think that justice stands by the good side of everything, for the stark reality is blatantly screaming at us that it stands by the side of whoever has the greater power over it. And when it does, it tramples upon the rights of the poor and the minorities in the society and makes them easy targets of injustice – precisely why death penalty should not be meted out as a punishment for any crime, not matter how grave it is. For the price of an innocent life is greater than the false satisfaction of retribution. What happened to their claim that everyone has the right to life? Has this basic right become a privilege, too, exclusive for the rich but elusive to the poor?

There is little reason to rejoice over the fact that our justice system is a far cry from our ancestors’ unconventional methods. Even with an improved method of trial, justice remains as blind, as deaf and as flawed as ever.

There are so many arguments against death penalty but let us get right into the core of it. Rather than clamor for the imposition of this inhuman punishment, why not lobby for the correction of the flawed justice system – the system that is slow, discriminatory, and corrupt?

They always say that we should teach these people a lesson. But Anon puts it best when he counters, "Does it make sense for the state to hire murderers to kill defenseless victims on death row, in order to prove that hiring murderers to kill defenseless victims is morally wrong?" No, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Nor is the state safer when it punishes a person through killing for it hasn’t been proven that death penalty effectively curbs the crime rates.

For once, let us be what we are – humans, with a heart and with a soul that feeds compassion for others. Humans who will give the others a chance to live life free from the guilt of their sins. For once, let us be the children of God -- forgiving, loving, and unselfish.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Who wants to steal?

Spark up your summer by taking these simple theft tactics into mind. Just act cool and natural when you’re at the implementation stage; nervousness may cause your prospect victim to be anxious. Do these with caution. (The situation applies when you’re planning to perform theft in a jeepney.)

1. When you’re riding a jeepney, always sit near a lady with a shiny bag. Shiny bags can spell luxury so risk it. She might be a prospect victim.

2. For sound effects, you can try sniffing and picking your nose a lot. The people in the jeepney will be moved with pity, if not disgust, “Awww, he’s just a poor sick man.”

3. A child, around age 3 – 4 sitting on your lap is a plus factor for your disguise. People will think you’re harmless old grandpa taking his grandson on a Sunday mall tour.

4. Bring an umbrella, big enough to cover both you and whoever your accomplice is (if any). Of course, people will think it’s just your defense against the summer heat when in fact, you’ve been planning to use it to carry out your stealthy plan. Allow the layers to hang loosely. You can use it for cover.

5. Wait until your seatmate opens her bag to get some change for the fare. You’re in luck when it’s already past six o’clock in the evening; the jeepney looks dark and since from the beginning, you have successfully (I assume) warded off the people’s suspicion, you can do the theft hassle-free. You just need the right momentum.

6. Pretending that you’re busy with something else, look into her wallet as she gets her change. Aha! She didn’t close her bag right away. Yahoo! The red heavens must be shining down on you. You can hear the angels – minus the halo, plus the little horns – singing Meja’s, “It’s all about the money… all about the dum-dum-de-de-dum-dum…” Your hands are all that itchy to grab the wallet and whisk it away.

7. Right at that moment, slowly move the umbrella towards her until one-fourth of the umbrella is sticking right above her still-open bag. When she’s not looking, skillfully slip your hand under the umbrella and into her bag (Bravo! What a genius!) until your hand finds the wallet. Slowly lift the wallet towards your umbrella.

8. But then, an unexpected thing happens: Despite your acting skills, she notices your bothersome umbrella near her bag and catches you red-handed holding her wallet! Shocked and speechless, she just utters “Oops!” and pushes the wallet back to the bag while moving her legs in such a way that you lose grip of the wallet. She hurriedly checks her bag to see if her cell phone is still safely tucked in her bag. She zips the bag close and puts it at the other side away from you. You have just blown your perfect poor-grandfather cover.

9. You’re unsure of what to do next. She’s still quiet, thank God. She didn’t try to announce to whole jeepney-hood that you’re such a klutz. She talks to her girl-companion beside her. Uh-oh. But thank God again that some people on your other side stepped out of the jeepney at a stopover. You immediately move away from her and nearer the jeepney door. “Surely now, I am safe from being caught. People will no longer think bad of me. Phew.” You say this to yourself quietly.

10. There’s another stopover. She and her companion start to move towards the door and out of the jeepney, while furiously cursing something in English. (Something that sounds like cap.. No wait, clap… Let me think, klep… That’s it, klepto! Klepto-something!) You sadly imagine the money burn into ashes while saying, “Pera na sana naging bato pa.”

Moral of the story: The attempt would have been successful had the prospect victim not been a past victim of the same crime. Therefore, if you’re going to try the same maneuver, make sure – be very, very sure they’re first-time victims.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I write to heal

(Post-writing) prologue: I don’t know if I was writing this with all my brain insides intact. It’s past 2 in the morning and I came close to injecting my weird theories again. Phew! It was as if some alien crept into me…yikes! But one last look at this, I’m ninety percent sure I wanted it to be written this way. (Attribute the remaining ten percent to the sleepy molecules.)

10 years ago: “I write because I want to express my heart’s deepest emotions…”
2 years ago: “I love writing. It’s like creating a world of your own through your pen and paper, immersing yourself and your readers into another dimension and in a new perspective. I never underestimated the power and influence of words. The scope is probably endless. I am not known to be an outspoken person but when I truly and deeply believe in something, one thing is clear to me: I want to be heard.”

I could chant a thousand clich├ęs on why I write: to shout to the whole world what I want to say, to put stinging memories into words, to curse, to share crazy ideas and weird self-formulated theories, and all those sorts of crap you can think of. Thing is, the reasons vary from time to time, from age to age, and from person to person.

As a kid, writing was my way of warding off my summer loneliness – that instead of just sleeping, eating, and living a pig’s life, I’d write about what happened during the day and how I had forgotten how lonely summer was at our home in Leyte. In my early teens, I wrote about my crushes, spine-tingling (“kilig”) moments, and infatuated frustrations. (See? I’m still human despite my witchy lifestyles and swinging moods.) When I took up Mass Communication in college, writing took on a different meaning for someone who is relatively quiet and secretive but was shoved into a notoriously protest-active college brimming with too many ideas and too many loud people – I wanted to be heard, and although writing is not as transparent as the sputtering, saliva-drying declarations of whatever-subject-this-time, I dedicate my writing only to people who care to hear some logical, if not sensible reasoning amidst all the mayhem.

Today, still a struggling college student, I still write to be heard. (And oh, rumor has it that blogging is the in-thing now because most people are tired of being drenched in saliva after hours of being exposed to some senseless talk. Awww… By senseless, I mean those discussions that aren’t really going anywhere because people have already made up their minds.) But through the years, I have come to consider writing as my personal therapy. All this time, I have been writing to heal myself of all the inequities this life could give – that by putting words to emotions, scenarios, and details, even to the minutest, I am making a sanity out of all the madness and sense out of all the rubbish. Yes, my friends. When I write, I strip off the beautiful skin of the ugly hand – in the same manner that I make black out of white. This world has a weird sense of humor. So many things we never could understand. So many surprises. So many pains. So many questions. Writing is thus my own attempt to see things beyond what is plainly visible, along with the goal of assuring myself that something better comes out of the worst and something worse could come out of the best. After all, there are always two sides of the coin. If life is at its best or the worst or anywhere between, there will always be what-if’s and but’s.

Ten years from now, I wonder what will be my driving force to write. Because aside from age, time, and the person, the reasons for writing can be largely dependent upon life’s circumstances, both past and present. And as of now, I’m more of the past.