The never-ending quest for justice

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos February 19,2017 - 08:16 PM
Atty. Gloria Ramos

Atty. Gloria Ramos

The quest for justice continues to this day. Sadly, the defenders of the voiceless and the marginalized are themselves victims of injustice.

The brutal slaying last Wednesday of public interest lawyer, Manuelita “Maia” Mascarinas-Green in Bohol, with her three traumatized children and nanny as witnesses to the dastardly act, is heartbreaking and shocking to the senses. She was a public interest lawyer with the rights of women and children, the farmers, fisherfolk and the environment, close to her heart. I was told she represented many clients pro bono or for free. She was compassionate beyond words.

Her demise adds to the growing number of lawyers, prosecutors and judges being murdered as a result of the performance of the responsibilities of their office and as citizens who sincerely care for the plight of our people.

Promotion of justice is, after all, the primary duty of a lawyer.

Two weeks ago, a judge and a prosecutor were shot in Surigao. Last December, two lawyers who were father and son, were ruthlessly gunned down. I wonder if the investigation/cases filed against the perpetrators of the crime are progressing as expeditiously as they should.

It is disheartening that our country is considered one of the world’s most dangerous places for lawyers, judges, public interest campaigners and media.

A news report mentioned that more than 100 environmental advocates were killed over the past 15 years.

(http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/02/17/17/environmental-lawyer-murdered-in-bohol)

This is a sad indictment of the justice system and the weakness of public institutions in their gross failure to protect the rights of our people. Erosion of trust in government is the expected consequence.

Should we surrender and be resigned to this bleak state of affairs prevailing in our country? Will we let things slide back and leave a dark future for the children where a state of uncertainty prevails?

The answer is a resounding No.

More than ever, we need to join hands in fighting abuse and violation of human rights and the right to life, livelihood, health and a healthful and balanced ecology. This includes vigorously opposing the pending regressive bill in the House of Representatives restoring the death penalty.

The right to life is sacred and inviolable. We have also signed various commitments before the international community to respect such right.

It is indeed heart-warming that thousands responded to the call of the church to join the “Walk for Life” prayer rally pre-dawn last Saturday.

“With the nation reeling from widespread drug-related violence, speakers at Walk for Life spoke of the challenges Filipinos are facing… Thousands of lay people rallied at the Quirino Grandstand, pressing for an end to extrajudicial killings and to oppose the reimposition of death penalty.

A sea of white shirts, hallmark of the pro-life movement, took over the area and filled it with prayers along with some bishops, priests, and religious men and women.”

(http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=91771)

Likewise, the decision of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to exercise her authority to suspend mining permits deserves commendation, not condemnation. She said that there was a thorough assessment by the agency of the violations and the impacts on the waters, biodiversity and livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolk badly affected by the degraded environment and due process followed.

It is basic that a permit is a privilege that may be withdrawn by the state if there is failure to comply with the requirements of our laws. The action of Secretary Lopez is meant to ensure that the quality of life of the people in the communities hosting extractive industries is not needlessly sacrificed in the name of the so-called development.

A human rights advocate, Dr. Jean Lindo, posted in Facebook, “Yess! This the very first time DENR became a real DENR, an agency that cares for all rather than caring for businesses that plunder.”

Let us stop the culture of violence now. Mahatma Gandhi rightfully declared that “strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. affirms that “returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. . . . Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Let’s honor our slain colleague, Maia Mascarinas-Green, and many others who are victims of injustice, by relentlessly pushing for the Rule of Law to prevail in our beloved country.

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TAGS: answer, bohol, church, ending, fisherfolk, Justice, lawyer, Manuelita, NEVER, people, plight, responsibilities, Walk for Life

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