Friday, February 4, 2011

Justice in the Philippines: What's the right thing to do?

NB: This is a cross post of Janette Toral's post which can also be found in her blog here. Thanks Janette!


My exposure to the Hubert Webb case last November was a major eye opener. After meeting him in person, thinking about Hubert's situation got me scared, unexplainable tears, and was already set with the decision that if he doesn't get acquitted, will push for my family's migration to another country.

Worried thoughts have calm down after I eventually blogged about it. My perspective on justice has change ever since even though Hubert was already acquitted and free today.

When news about crime and arrested suspect(s) gets reported, I can't help but wonder if the ones mentioned are the real culprits or not.

Katarungan sa Pilipinas komiks contest
One of my blog entrepreneur students, Ryan of Komiks Advocate, organized a contest where the winning artist will develop an illustration based on the "justice for the innocent" theme. Andoyman was chosen for the task.

The artwork depicts a common cry of the innocent spending time in jail - crying for justice. As the present government administration wants to steer us all to a straight path, I just hope that progress can also be attained in dispensing justice. Not only swift but also fair and accurate.

While I was updating myblog post on Hubert Webb, a letter arrived from the U.S. Embassy where I got invited to attend theInternational Visitor Leadership Program.

Was browsing the Innocence Project at that time contemplating if the same can be done in the country. Hope to learn more about them including efforts to ensure fair dispensing of justice.

I am also interested to learn more about efforts in recognizing bloggers' freedom to blog about court cases without fear of being threatened of subjudice.

As a justice neophyte, have much to learn about it  and hope this video series will enlighten me further to start with.

Will definitely use my upcoming U.S. visit to learn more about justice, energy, security, technology, art, science, among others. Be inspired and do something productive when I get back.

Here's another comic strip illustration from Andoyman on justice. Funny but true.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Katarungan sa Pilipinas/Justice in The Philippines art contest

I made a komiks illustration making contest December last year as part of the Blog Entrepeneurship course from DigitalFilipino and ADMU. I wanted to make a project that would immediately and clearly benefit komiks people. 6WPG4EMHG4PE

the final winning image by Andoyman Komikero

Unfortunately, time constraints did not allow me to properly promote the contest. I did not give sufficient time for people to prepare and submit entries as well. As a result, few people were able to participate, so I consider it fortuitous that we were able to push through with it.

The contest launch and initial rules can be found here. Basically, I gave komiks people free rein to make whatever komiks they wanted. Before the end of the 1st week, I had received no entries, and asked around to find out the contest was launched just when everyone was rushing work to end the year.

I changed the rules to a spot illustration contest, with specific instructions to illustrate thus: You will be illustrating a man in a small dark prison cell. The man is looking upward at a far away window, where a bird is coming in. The prisoner's face will be covered in shadow, but you will be labeling him 'Justice.' You can write Justice on his shirt, or have a floating ribbon with words Justice around him. 

Below the illustration, we will include a quote from Hubert Webb, when asked how he had felt, given events of ten years ago and today - "Why is this happening to me?" If you can letter this in yourself, it will be a huge bonus!

I came to regret naming Hubert Webb, although personally I felt he was wrongly jailed and continue to do so.  The contest was ongoing when Hubert and his co-accused were acquitted, and so I immediately received inquiries if the contest was politically motivated. I did want to take risks when choosing my topic, but it had the unintended consequence of alienating some prospective contestants. 

As noted in the actual blog post I did write, we continue to look for justice in the Philippines, but I feel that case is illustrative of what we do in search for it. Ultimately, I haven't been put off from entering controversial topics, but do want to set up more inclusive activities for this blog and the komiks people in the future.

Now, let's get to the illustrations:

This illustration by Bob Melendres, who isn't active making komiks now, but is a friend of a friend.

This illustration is by Ernest John Daryll Fiestan of Crazy Metro Comics. He has recently said he plans to publish some actual komiks to him soon! More power, Ernest :)

Finally, the winner is Andoyman of Andoyman Komikero! Digital Filipino head and project sponsor Janette Toral met Andoyman last week. This is a black and white version of the image I used last blog post. Original sketch is below.

Thanks to Janette Toral for all the support, Jonas Diego for helping with judging, all the contestants for joining and again, congratulations to Andoyman! I hope to setup a more open, more reasonably run contest soon. No politics for the next one, I promise!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Katarungan sa Pilipinas/Justice in The Philippines

The Philippines seems to not yet have fully recovered from the hostage bombing late last year as successive tragedies continue to attack our collective psyche. It seems every other week something happens that will make your blood boil, if not overwhelm you with despair. Just to recap quickly, recent events that have shocked the country include: 6WPG4EMHG4PE

The recent carjackings of Margarita ForesEmerson Lozano, driver Ernane Sensil and Venson Evangelista, the latter three of which led to their deaths

If you look at the reactions by Pinoys online, it would seem that this is the worst situation that this country could be in. As bad as things seem now, we need to put things in perspective and not be swayed by hyperbole or divisive rhetoric. We have yet to experience a truly failed state, as have the people of Afghanistan, Somalia, Timor-Leste or Haiti. In spite of everything, we still have a lot to be thankful for.

But if these events do not yet make us a failed state, what are we to make of these recent spates of violence? Are some of these part of destabilization plots against the government, as is often claimed? Are these all just a matter of successive coincidences? Are these the indications of a failed judicial system, or the consequences of one?

The Philippines' culture of impunity and history of extrajudicial killings have been cited before as indications of the lack of justice in the country. However, this seems to me to define specific situations, and is inadequate at rationalizing others. Let me share my thoughts on two particular cases that continue to perplex me.

The acquittal of Hubert Webb and five others in the murders of the Vizcondes divided the country. For a long time, most of us were convinced that they were able to punish the perpetrators of the crime, but a review of the case would show that the investigation had been handled poorly from the start, and now those end results have been put into question. As Janette Toral notes, we can be conditioned into taking sides in issues like this, not due to an elaborate coverup, but simply because of confirmation bias and social reinforcement.

Likewise, Ivan Padilla's death remains debatable. Did the police deliberately withdraw aid that could have saved his life when he was caught? Forensic reports indicate he may have even been strangled. I worry that the public did not express the appropriate amount of outrage towards this. Did it seem to many that he deserved to die? As much as we complain about our judicial system, I still believe in its function. Shouldn't Ivan have been allowed to have his day in court?

In both cases, as well as numerous others, unanswered questions linger. Investigations aren't thorough enough to cover all the sides of the story. Instead, we're left with fragments of stories, and in some cases we're not even sure if these fragments are wholly true. And we're supposed to accept these fragments as the entire thing, and our lives go on.

It's like justice itself has been gilded in a cage, hidden deep in the darkness, not to be seen.

UPDATED: I wanted to share this link to Maria Ressa's article How Good People Turn Evil Her reflections of Philip Zimardo's Stanford prison study fit in with what I've been talking about.