Saturday, August 14, 2010

Due Process for All

By Siesta-friendly

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.[1]

If only everybody would find these words as precious as their own lives, liberties, and properties.  For from these words do we go out and return home in peace.   

Thus, it is maddening to hear criticisms against those who denounce the police force’s apparent lack of respect for due process in subduing their suspects.  Why people find it acceptable that extralegal means can be used to fight crime indicates a chilling lack of respect for every person’s fundamental rights.    

The latest example is that of the killing of suspected carnapping syndicate leader Ivan Padilla.  Padilla was finally caught after an alleged shootout.  News cameramen arrived on the scene and the police called their attention to presumably film the wounded Ivan then sitting at the back of a police van.  A remarkable scene considering Ivan had just been shot in the head.  The film showed he was, however, still conscious and able to answer his name when asked.  After the very short “news interview”, the van left.  30 minutes later, Padilla was left alone in a hospital 15 minutes away from the “shootout” scene. Within 10 minutes, he was declared dead.  The death certificate signed by the Makati Health Department and funeral officials stated his death was due to “asphyxia as a result of blunt force to the throat.”[2]

From the “alleged” shootout, the lack of care in handling a seriously wounded suspect, the delay in bringing to the hospital the suspect who’d been shot, the cause of death coming out of nowhere, the police actions surrounding the arrest and death of Ivan Padilla raise suspicions.

But why don’t we just celebrate the death of a serial carnapper, a scourge of society, instead of question the police’s actions?  Because without due process, where evidence are laid out and the accused is given the opportunity to defend himself and refute the evidence against him, the fact of the crime and the guilt of the criminal are left to the discretion of government authorities.  Think of all the extrajudicial killings - of farmers, laborers and students – allegedly made by the military in their fight against “insurgents”.  Without due process, the number of our extrajudicial killings would increase and shame the Khmer Rouge.

Without due process, all that law enforcement forces need is the belief that a crime has been committed, that the suspects committed it and the suspect needs to be eliminated.  We might as well abolish the courts.

Without due process, law enforcers can easily claim “shootouts” in neutralizing suspects and no one can make law enforcers accountable for their lapses or excesses or outright lies during these encounters. 

With no respect for due process, Engr. Alfonso De Vera’s SUV was shot 84 times with 24 shots concentrated on the vehicle's windshield and bumper as the SUV ended at the tail end of a vehicle convoy of bank robbers the Philippine National Police’s Highway Patrol Group had just then intercepted and engaged in a shootout.  After alighting from his SUV to carry his 7-year old daughter to safety, the police pursued, shot and killed him and his daughter.  Engr. De Vera and his daughter, Lia, were among 6 innocent bystanders killed in the encounter.[3]  Engr. De Vera and his daughter were both shot in the head.[4]  

In the case of the De Veras, the Commission on Human Rights found that the police violated the Police Operational Procedures including Rule 8 which states: “Moving vehicles may not be fired upon solely to disable them. The driver or other occupant of a moving motor vehicle may be fired upon if the police have probable cause to believe that the suspects pose an imminent danger of death to the police or other persons.”[5]   With no apparent threat coming from the De Veras, the sole assumption by the police that the De Veras were robbers sealed their deaths.

Unforgettable and heartbreaking, the killing of the De Veras is distressingly only one of many instances of the acute disregard of government authorities for fundamental human rights.

These days, shootouts are not that uncommon in the Philippines.  Are our criminals that violent or are our law enforcers just undisciplined?  How many among the victims of law enforcers are totally innocent?  How many shootouts are actually rubouts? Without due process, we wouldn’t know.

It is a truism that it is better that the courts acquit ten guilty men than mistakenly imprison one innocent man.   A verdict of guilty as passed by the courts is subject to appeal.  But before it is issued, the evidence is heard.  A verdict of guilty from the barrel of a gun is final and unappealable.  Nothing is heard except the wails of the bereaved. 

[1]  Sec. 1, Art III, 1987 Constitution
[2]  Chr to probe padilla's death; mom suspects rubout . (2010, August 4). Retrieved from
[3]  Dizon , N. (2009, January 7). Only cops could have killed de veras . Retrieved from
[4]  A Letter from lilian de vera. (2009, March 17). Retrieved from
[5]  Kwok, A, & Dizon, N. (2010, January 11). Charge cops in death of 16 in paraƱaque shootout—chr . Retrieved from


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