Modern day Pontius Pilate....
I almost fell out my chair my reading the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) over breakfast.
What flabbergasted me was a statement given by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales regarding his thoughts during the preliminary investigation of the three American servicemen accused of raping a Filipina inside a van during a lull in the joint Philippine and United States military exercises held late last year.
He said, and I quote: "I almost exonerated them (three of the four accused). But I didn't, if only to satisfy the mob."
What was that all about? The above statement is something I would expect to hear from a tambay (loiterer) or an uneducated bum. But from the Secretary of Justice of the Republic? Saints help us.
During a preliminary investigation, what is of paramount importance is the determination of the existence of probable cause. In any potential criminal case, there is either probable cause, or there isn't. If there is, the case should proceed to court. If not, the case should be dismissed. Taking the legal role of a preliminary investigation into consideration, I find it difficult to reconcile this with the statement of the Justice Secretary.
Secretary Raul Gonzales is fond of claiming that his statements are often misquoted or taken out of context, so let us try to analyze the abovequoted statement in detail.
"I almost exonerated them. But I didn't, if only to satisfy the mob."
Was there a determination of probable cause? If his objective was simply to satisfy the people's cry for blood in the rape case, then apparently there wasn't. Otherwise, what would be the logic in making such a qualificatory statement? If there was indeed prima facie evidence of the culpability of American servicemen in question, it would have been his sworn duty as Secretary of Justice to ensure that the case does go to trial, and there would have been no need to qualify his statement with an apparent capitulation to mob rule.
If he let the case proceed to court even in the absence of probable cause, he is no different from Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea who gave in to public clamor and ordered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
I find this statement of his very disappointing, especially coming from the head of a line agency tasked with the administration of justice. The supreme irony is that we have a Secretary of Justice seemingly without an inate sense of justice.
Then again, this won't be the first time that I have been appalled by one of his statements.
I am not siding with the accused, nor am I siding with the alleged victim. That's a different subject altogether. For me, to be tried in the court of public opinion, or to be tried by publicity, simply has no place in our criminal justice system. If Secretary Raul Gonzales gave in to public clamor instead of applying blind justice devoid of any external influences or subjectivity, then he clearly does not deserve to occupy the position of Secretary of Justice.
It would be an injustice in itself.
Gonzalez: I almost exonerated them