Judge Azucena’s ruling lacks proofreading

December 05, 2018

It’s obvious the court decision convicting three policemen for murdering Kian delos Santos wasn’t proofread thoroughly. But beyond some mistakes – presumably just clerical or typo errors resulting in wrong grammar and misquotation – one may still see it as a splendid verdict that could be a turning point, hopefully, in our criminal justice system.

Of course, the ruling handed down last Thursday by Caloocan City Regional Trial Court Branch 125 Judge Roldolfo Azucena Jr. might not be enough to send shivers down the spine of desensitized police scalawags whose rampage of impunity has made them callous to the violence they inflict on hapless citizens.

Still, the verdict declaring PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz guilty of murder could serve as a sort of warning to other rogue cops that the wheels of justice would eventually catch up with them. It’s one of those rare triumphs of the criminal justice system. That a guilty verdict was rendered in just a little over a year after 17-year-old Kian was killed by Caloocan policemen on August 16, 2017 is quite an achievement.

It shows that there can be a level of efficiency, albeit rare, in the various aspects of the criminal justice system – reporting the crime, conducting thorough investigation, gathering evidence, identifying perpetrators by eliciting valuable information from the community, arresting and prosecuting suspects, and undergoing a swift and fair trial in court until a verdict is reached and justice is served.

With the verdict, a sense of optimism might arise anew in our criminal justice system. It could destroy the widespread perception that law enforcers turned lawbreakers can easily get away with heinous crimes especially when people lose interest in crying murder after a while as the corrupt and slowpoke justice system ensures that cases drag on for years, until the victims’ families lose all motivation and hope in pursuing justice.

The court ruling ought to encourage people in the pursuit of justice against rogue cops who, according to sociologist Randy David, are emboldened by “a climate of impunity and public timidity that – in the name of the so-called war on drugs – has normalized abduction and the raiding of homes, and has made killing an everyday thing.”

Judge Azucena’s 35-page ruling made use of timeless doctrines inscribed in past Supreme Court decisions. Among these, one stands out: “A shoot first, think later disposition occupies no decent place in a civilized society. Never has homicide or murder been a function of law enforcement. The public peace is never predicated on the cost of human life.” The doctrine was in a June 25, 2012 decision penned by SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta in G.R. Nos. 120744-46.

One may find Judge Azucena’s decision quite excellent, except for some typographical or clerical errors that some will find confusing. On page 31, for instance, he cites a SC ruling, in People vs. Ulep, G.R No. 132547 promulgated on Sept. 20, 2000, that supposedly states: “The law does not clothe police officers without authority to arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill.”

Without authority? So, therefore, the law clothes police with the authority to kill? Or, should the right statement be “with” authority to arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill? A google check with the actual SC decision states: “The right to kill an offender is not absolute… The law does not clothe police officers with authority to arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill.”

The citation in page 31 of the RTC ruling also has a grammatical error when the word “stresses” was used instead of “stressed” as what appears in the SC decision.

Another typo error appears in page 10 where Kian’s next door neighbor whose surname is Supera is misspelled as Sumera. Also, on page 7, Kian supposedly wears color green boxer shorts while another witness says the color was blue. A check with a photo of the actual crime scene will show Kian was clad in blue shorts with patches of green.

However, the mistakes can be forgiven, considering that such are not errors that occur from judicial reasoning or determination. But, needless to say, a thorough proofreading would have been best.

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