Andal Ampatuan Jr. has been arrested and charged with the mass murder of 57 innocent people during the Maguindanao massacre – the most brutal killing in recent history due to political rivalry. He is now facing life imprisonment without parole if ever found guilty. Everyone is praying that justice will be served to the victims.
Yet what is justice really? What side does justice serve? A friend told me that the dirtiest word he had ever encountered was justice. Everyone seems to be shouting it – even the perpetrators. No one seems to want to admit that they are on the wrong side of the law. Everyone cries for justice. Even Ampatuan Jr. denies vehemently his involvement with the massacre. There are even times when people will claim they are wrongly accused and that they deserve justice. In either case, be it the defendant or the prosecutor, both will demand justice. It’s just that in some cases, one party shouts for it louder than the other.
Justice is defined as the quality of being just or fair (Free Online Dictionary). Yet how do we know what is fair or what is just? We look at the law. What does it mandate? What does it say? That is the standard by which we administer justice. Yet law is something that is made by man and is interpreted by man. So in the end the administration of justice is still left to someone’s subjectivity in interpreting something that is supposedly objective.
No wonder we have cases of justice going awry – bribed judges and juries. Or even out-of-court settlements. What happens when a millionaire is charged with a crime against a poor defendant? He makes amends by settling the dispute out of courts. People who can afford to pay their way out of a dispute – be it big or small – would always do so irregardless of what the law says. Is justice administered then considering that what is fair and just by the eyes of the law was not met?
Consider this hypothetical scenario. If a poor man was caught stealing from a rich man, he is bound to be imprisoned or sentenced to the punishment mandated by law. If a rich man was found to be violating the rights of a poor man, he most likely will pay the amount of damages to the poor man to escape the punishment mandated by law. I know there are loopholes to the argument but I hope you get my drift.
Point is, justice becomes subjective in relation to a person’s social stature. What is just to the eyes of man and to the eyes of law is different. The poor family of a rape victim would most probably accept millions of payment for damages if they would just stop pursuing the case against the rich rapist. After all, they need to be practical. Putting the darned man behind bars would probably serve justice in the sense that he is punished, but would that bring food to their table? What would they feel if the condemned man manages to bail out or worse was confined in pristine quarters? We cannot deny that rich convicts get certain privileges. Look at Jalosjos.
Many have died and sacrificed all in the pursuit of justice. Many have attempted to define it beyond what the dictionary tells us. It took almost 10 years for justice to be served for the Vizconde massaccre. What about the Maguindanao massacre? Would justice be served this time? Or would it be shelved for a long, long time?
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
*Credit goes to Richard for the idea and some of the words in this blog. 😀