The hypocrisy of Manila’s Dirty Harry

Spraying red paint on the homes of people suspected of involvement in illegal drugs and openly endorsing the killing of alleged criminals are practices of the mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, earning him the reputation of being a “Dirty Harry.” He has shown neither mercy nor any notion of due process to this group of people, however. When he and his son Manuel recently got into similar trouble though, none of this unlawful harassment was evident.

Over the years, Mayor Lim has deliberately hidden the fact that his son has been using illegal drugs. Had his son not been arrested on March 15 for selling drugs and subsequently charged in court, it would not be known. While Mayor Lim and his son have obtained a certain level of protection for their actions, this same protection has not been afforded to other people and their other families whom the mayor has unjustly humiliated and accused without any form of due process. They have not been given an opportunity to defend themselves nor given any reasonable explanation why they are treated as condemned criminals in public.

Even worse is that the mere suspicion of a person’s involvement with illegal drugs is enough to incite others to murder him or her. It is already bad enough that suspects are deprived and stripped of their constitutional rights and not able to defend themselves before a court of law. Government officials, however, subvert their duty when they become advocates of extrajudicial executions. Their oath when they assume public office is to ensure that, in enforcing laws, their constituents should be equally treated and have equal protection before the law.

When criticized for spraying red paint on people’s homes, as it violates a person’s right to the presumption of innocence, Mayor Lim has defended his actions. He has argued that the presumption of innocence can be invoked only when a person is charged in court or during a trial. Meanwhile, he claims that spraying red paint on a person’s home is not against the law — when it is, of course, an unlawful act. The guilt of a person cannot be determined by a government official, especially one with such a deep bias and a non-existent notion of legality.

However, when it comes to his family, this mayor decides what treatment he, his son and his family deserve. Did he, upon learning of his son’s involvement with illegal drugs, spray his or his son’s home with red paint? He did not, for Mayor Lim’s family and his son have a certain level of protection and immunity from this unjust persecution and public humiliation.

This sudden respect for rights is not the case though for other families and their sons whose lives and security have been unnecessarily undermined and put at risk by Mayor Lim’s unlawful actions. While his son deserves to be presumed innocent and to have equal protection before the law, other people, even though they are his constituents, have not been afforded these rights.

The extent of fear and public humiliation that Mayor Lim has long instilled in the community since becoming Manila’s mayor against people he has unjustly accused and humiliated for allegedly being involved with illegal drugs or allegedly being criminals is so deep that some of them have had to move from their homes. Staying would mean they would suffer humiliation every day as condemned criminals, as determined by the mayor. Do they deserve to suffer this consequence based merely on the judgment of Mayor Lim, who has indirectly encouraged even the murder of these people should they not mend their ways or migrate to other places? This is the tough line he has repeatedly told his constituents.

Because of his hatred for alleged criminals, especially those who commit serious crimes, and his disdain for the justice system, Mayor Lim feels justified in initiating his shoot-to-kill policy, as he explained during a radio interview in August 2007: “The order involves only those engaged in heinous crimes, like robbery with homicide, gang rape and those who had killed policemen before. I don’t like policemen being beaten to the draw and shot.” He said he hates attending burial rites for policemen killed on duty. “Definitely, it’s better to bury criminals than policemen,” he said.

When interviewed about his son’s arrest, however, he said, “I’ll not lift a finger to help him. Let it be if he’ll be sentenced (to jail); so be it.” His son at least will have the opportunity to make his defense in court before being convicted and sentenced. His son’s family also was fortunate not to have been publicly humiliated or persecuted by having their house sprayed with red paint prior to his arrest, even after Mayor Lim learned his son had been using illegal drugs.

Other people have been murdered or sentenced without any notion of due process and presumption of innocence. Once accused by the mayor, they instantly become undesirable people with no rights.

Mayor Lim also has not given any explanation why he and his family deliberately hid from the public his son’s illegal drug activities. A public official owes an explanation to his constituents, but none thus far has been forthcoming. He also has never bothered to explain the double standards he has employed, for his own house and that of his son have not been painted red; this “Dirty Harry” is not so dirty when an incident is so close to home. This merely reveals the hypocrisy of Manila’s “Dirty Harry.”

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Filed under Human Rights, Laws

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