Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obstruction of justice

It looks to me like the ugly face of politics is slowly creeping into the tragedy that has befallen ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon.
Early this week, the wife of Ted Failon, Trinidad Etong, was discovered having sustained a gunshot wound in the head.
Subsequently, she was described as “brain dead”. She later died.
Before her death, it could not be known whether it was an attempted suicide or attempted homicide.
It must be remembered that Ted Failon (real name Mario Teodoro Etong) is not only a high profile broadcaster.
Just last week, he was included in the short list of probable senatorial contenders of the opposition.
And he just might win.
As a broadcaster, it could not be avoided that Ted Failon would step on the toes of very very big and powerful persons.
Just recently, Mr. Failon lambasted in his radio commentary the Quecon City police involved in that rubout in the middle of EDSA that way capture by an ABS CBN cameraman.
So it is not hard to understand that the police, perhaps under instructions from higher-ups, are treating Mr. Failon more like a criminal than a pained husband.
It would not be surprising if big-time politicos would, at this early time, already discredit Mr. Failon (i.e. prematurely placing him in the immigration watch list) in order to dislodge him right away from among the top senatorial contenders
What the police now are brandishing and invoking against Ted Failon,his relatives and employees, is a martial law decree called “obstruction of justice” under Presidential Decree No. 1829.
Let’s talk about this law.
PD 1829 is a penal law that punishes obstruction in the apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.
What is immediately striking about this law, is that obstruction of justice” will come into play, if and only if, there is a crime committed.
Just look at the whereas clause: “whereas to discourage public indifference or apathy towards the apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders, it is necessary to penalize acts which obstruct or frustrate or tend to obstruct or frustrate the successful apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders
It is very clear that there can only be obstruction of justice if there is a crime involved.
Section 1 states: Punishment “shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects, and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases
Again, the law is very clear that in obstruction of justice, there must be---at the very least---a crime involved.
Secondly, to be liable for obstruction of justice, the obstruction must be done “knowingly or willfully
Let us analyze the actions of the over-zealous policemen in arresting people for “obstruction of justice” in the Ted Failon episode.
The police began arresting people on the pre-text of obstruction of justice when there is yet no clarity (until now) that a crime has been committed.
The policemen were putting the cart before the horse.
It has not been established yet whether what happened was an [attempted] suicide or homicide.
Worse, as investigation progressed, the angle of attempted homicide rapidly diminished, while the theory of attempted suicide became a more logical scenario.
Yet even as the angle of [attempted] suicide became more credible, police began arresting people for "obstruction of justice".
My question is: How can one be arrested for obstruction of justice without any reasonable basis to believe, nay establish, that a crime indeed, has been committed?
The blunder of the police here is the fact that they arrested persons even if no crime is clearly in the horizon.
By the way, let me just emphasize that there is no such crime in our penal books called “attempted suicide”.
And criminal law book author Luis B. Reyes aptly reasons why:
A person who attempts at suicide is not criminally liable, because society has considered a person who attempts to kill himself as an unfortunate being, a wretched person more deserving of pity rather than of penalty.
What the police are doing is highly unnatural, besides being illegal.
(They ought to be held liable for illegal arrest).
This is the first time I encountered a situation where the police arrests people for obstruction of justice, without first determining whether indeed, the incident involved was a crime, in the first place.
Normally, the charges of obstruction of justice comes way much later after the prosecution of the main crime.
Police ate desert before the main course.
Worse, the police were arresting relatives (in the hospital) who were in the midst of suffering unbearable tragedy and anguish over their kin who had tried to take her own life.
Worst, the arrests were made deliberately at a time when the courts were closed to ensure that the arrested will sleep-over in a jail cell.
Of course, it is still possible that indeed, what happened was a crime (homicide).
But to arrest people for obstruction of justice before reasonably establishing the commission of a crime, to me, is just plain absurdity, if not stupidity.
This is yet another example of how the state can abuse the rights of individuals through the calculated, intentional mis-use of our penal laws.
And that’s a bigger tragedy.


atty. manuel p. teoxon, sr. said...

You are absolutely right in your analysis. The members of the QCPD are just trying to get even with the ABS-CBN people, ted failon included, when the cameraman from this tv station was able to capture on camera the alleged rub-out incident.


KZ said...

Thanks for this post. Can i link it to my page? I think people ought to know about this and your blog was helpful.

Jay Dejaresco said...

Hi KZ. No problem. J.