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Verbal brawl

Batas Mauricio

IN the recent verbal brawl between two presidential candidates where the latest challenge from one of the contenders is already a gun duel, is it possible that before they started their public skirmish, they talked to one another first, agreeing to be bombastic in lambasting one another, for additional media mileage?

Are Filipinos being taken for a ride in this media battle? Are the candidates resorting to a mere gimmickry in what they are doing now, simply to generate more interest in themselves, without paying anything by way of advertising cost?

We must not forget that the combatants in this spectacle are both highly educated. One is a lawyer who rose to become a police chief, prosecutor, a long-time city mayor, and then, all of a sudden, a presidential candidate who has, at the moment, the biggest chance of winning next year’s polls. The other is an American educated scion of a rich and politically-powerful family.

They certainly know what they are doing in their quest for the presidency, right? Surely, both of these candidates share the view that publicity, whether good or bad, is publicity just the same, which can make voters recall them with more ease come election time, without them paying anything.

The fact is that, even now, all the other candidates have already been sidelined effectively by this verbal tussle. The headlines of newspapers and radio-TV news coverage have focused on the two candidates alone, with the media lapping up with gusto every statement and every challenge coming from them, without any word on the other candidates.

If a survey is to be conducted today to measure the Filipinos’ awareness of who are running for president in 2016, I am sure the candidates battling with one another will immediately stand out all the more. The candidate who is currently the frontrunner will get higher ratings, while the candidate who is a perennial cellar-dweller will experience a jump in people’s perception of his candidacy.

This is why I say, our people should not be deceived by what the candidates say or do in the days leading to the 2016 elections. All of these would be geared towards generating publicity for themselves, in the hope of capturing not only the imagination of Filipino voters but, more importantly, their votes as well.

Voters should endeavor to remain rooted in intelligently scrutinizing the past record of everyone running for president, remembering what they did, or did not do, in alleviating the poverty and suffering of our countrymen. Then, the spirituality of candidates must likewise be thoroughly examined, to see whether they are God-fearing and God-loving.

It is only when a candidate has been God-fearing and God-loving even before he became president of the country that he would have the courage and the decency to be morally  upright and righteous in his presidency, preventing him from corrupt dealings and from coddling corrupt allies. Do we see any candidate who is God-fearing and God-loving in the 2016 contest?

Can Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte be prosecuted in connection with his admission that he killed three kidnappers who abducted and then raped a Chinese girl in 1988, and in dropping a drug dealer from a flying helicopter?

My answer is no, Duterte could not be charged for those incidents anymore, even if he claimed he actually perpetrated the killings, whether those killings are classified as murder or as simple homicide.

The first reason is that the crimes already prescribed, assuming they were indeed committed, and assuming there is evidence, other than Duterte’s admission, to prove them. Under Art. 90 of the Revised Penal Code, crimes which are punishable with death, reclusion perpetua (for crimes committed under the Code) or life imprisonment (for crimes penalized by special laws), and with reclusion temporal (or imprisonment from 12 years to 20 years), the penalties for murder and homicide, prescribe in 20 years.

Legally, therefore, whether the killings alleged to have been admitted by Duterte are classified as murder or as homicide, they already prescribed–that is to say, the complainants and the State have lost their right to institute and prosecute the alleged offender, simply because 20 years already lapsed from the time of its commission.

Since these crimes allegedly happened in 1988 yet, the 20 year period by which they can be prosecuted ended in 2008, or almost seven years ago yet. This law on prescription of crimes remains a good law in our country, serving as a warning to the complainants and to the State to act with dispatch against the supposed offender.

Now, the second reason why Duterte could not be charged, assuming the crimes have not prescribed yet, is his invocation of the rules on citizen’s arrest, under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Revised Rule on Criminal Procedure.

Under the doctrine of citizen’s arrest, any citizen can effect the arrest of any person who is committing a crime in his presence, or who has just committed a crime and the citizen has reasonable basis for believing that the person to be arrested was the culprit, or when the person to be arrested escaped from detention.

In effecting the arrest, the citizen can use “reasonable force” to defend himself and other people from any aggression coming from the person to be arrested. This includes firing at the person to be arrested, either to just maim him, or, depending on the circumstances, to prevent him from killing anyone.

Then, finally, in 1988, any city mayor at that time was under the coverage of Batas Pambansa 337, the Local Government Code enacted by former President Marcos. Under its Section 171 (b), city mayors were obliged to maintain peace and order in their localities, authorizing them even to carry firearms of their own. Duterte would appear to have merely exercised his rights under the Code at that time!

E-mail: batasmauricio@yahoo.com

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