A tale of two jailbirds.
One is a former major general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) while the other is an incumbent senator of the Republic.
Jovito Palparan who is notoriously known as “the butcher” during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was convicted for kidnapping and serious illegal detention by a trial court in Malolos, Bulacan in connection with the enforced disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Leila de Lima, on the other hand, is detained on trumped-up drug charges. Arrested in February 2017, the lady senator and former Justice secretary was only arraigned after eighteen months of unjust incarceration. Until now, the prosecution has not yet presented any credible witness nor have shown any strong and convincing evidence fortifying the claim that these cases are nothing but pure invention concocted by her government persecutors.
One is a convicted felon and, unless the judgment imposing the penalty of lifetime imprisonment is reversed, set aside or modified by the appellate courts, should serve his sentence at the Maximum Security Compound of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).
The other is presumed innocent until her guilt is proven by proof beyond reasonable doubt. And with the way the prosecutors are handling her cases and with the inherent defect in the criminal information, it seems that her eventual acquittal is in order.
But what is perplexing are the two contradictory ways Palparan and De Lima are being treated by their government custodians.
While De Lima has been restricted and is not allowed to talk to media and her supporters every time she is brought to court for the hearing of her cases, Palparan was still able to grant interviews to journalists even after he was transferred to the national penitentiary.
Dionito Cabillas of Iglesia Filipina Independiente shared photos of Palparan in Bilibid while talking to reporters from ABS-CBN, CNN and other media entities.
In his post, Cabillas said that Palparan was formally turned-over to the Reception and Diagnostic Center of the NBP where he will be quarantined for two months before being sent to the Maximum Security Compound. Supposedly a restricted area, only members of the immediate members of the family of convicted person can visit the latter.
“But in these pictures Inmate Palparan will get more privileges. It is the the brand of justice system in the Philippines,” Cabillas wrote.
On the contrary, De Lima’s heavy security is something that can be accurately described as an overkill. As if the lady senator is a threat to national security, as if she is a flight risk.
There was even one incident a couple of months ago when the police escorts of the De Lima resorted to synchronized coughing just to obscure the statement that she is trying to deliver a statement to the press.
If you do not see this as an act of oppression, there is something wrong with your moral compass.
The double standard in the treatment of Palparan and De Lima is both absurd and appalling. The convicted criminal and incorrigible human rights violator being given a special treatment while the first political prisoner under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte is being persecuted with the use of government power and resources.