Thursday, September 15, 2016

Balm for the Victims

This is Part 4 of a series of guest posts entitled "The Constitution and Cardboard Justice", by my friend and churchmate, Goya Pableo. To read the previous articles, click on the links below.

Part 1
Since the recent bombing incident in Davao City, President Duterte has calibrated all of his power toward the vindication of his hometown and people. Likewise, the State looks at victims through the same protective lenses as the pater patriae1 - the protector, the “father”. If you harm the child, you infuriate the father.

The Victims

Part 2
For the purposes of this article, "victims" are those who have suffered physical, emotional, and/or mental harm, along with loss of property, wealth, and/or life at the hands of offenders under the influence of illegal drugs. Moreover, the families of victims are more than “third parties” (Wallace & Robertson, 2011); they also suffer, and sometimes more, with mental, emotional or even physical agony. Thus, we also treat family members and loved ones of the victims as victims themselves.

The State in lawful vindication of the victims
Part 3
Generally, the State should subject offenders under judicial processes even if the victims are reluctant to file a case in court. Aside from the imprisonment of drug convicts, victims could also claim civil indemnity – damages – ranging from monetary compensation to restitution (Art. 100 & 104, The Revised Penal Code). The State is also bound to protect victims from further harm by issuing restraining orders and injunctions, or by putting them under witness protection programs (among other legal remedies and benefits).

The law implies that victims should forego vengeful actions against the offender and leave the full vindication to the State. If executed rightly, the law fully punishes the offender more than any extralegal remedy can: the deprivation of liberty, then of property and if warranted, of life (but as of writing, the Death Penalty is suspended) – after due process of law – is meant to do to the offender what he has done unto the State (and indirectly unto us as a nation). This would also mean physical and emotional suffering for the convict, with loss of property, wealth, and “life” (in a sense that his physical strength wastes away as he spends his years inside the penitentiary).

“You are not in their shoes.”

Yes, we do not feel what the victims feel, and never will we – their pain is uniquely theirs. Yet, if popular opinion attempts to appease the victims by condoning lawless methods as vindication, more harm will be done. Human vindication begets human vindication, and it cannot discern who is innocent and who is guilty before the law.

Although geared towards retribution, the law is a channel of reconciliation between the State and the offender, since the latter is, regardless of criminal bent, still the former’s ‘child’ (like the victims). Even if reconciliation between the offender and the victims is highly improbable, we know of a model that says otherwise. As offenders of the Most Holy God, reconciliation is paved through the blood of Christ – we have infuriated the Father, and He crucified His Son instead of us.

For All Are Offenders

As Christians, we are called to be as balm to the hurting. Encouraging vengeance and lawless retribution is adverse to our call. The Gospel that we carry is meant to make people realize that all are heinous offenders before Him, and that apart from Christ, we are bound to suffer eternal death in accordance with God executing His due process. This is the message we give to the victims of crimes in this world, with the hope that God would reconcile them to Himself for eternity.

If what the majority clamors for is in conflict with the established precepts of law, what do we do? We’ll look into that next.

For the meantime, may we continually comfort the hurting with the Gospel that we have received.


  1. "Who Is a Victim of Crime?" Department of Justice. Accessed September 13, 2016.
  2. Act 3815: The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. Date Enacted: December 8, 1930.
  3. Salaverria, Leila. "Duterte: State of Lawlessness Covers the Whole Country." September 3, 2016. Accessed September 3, 2016..
  4. Segall, Marshall. "Pain: A Secret Garden of Pride." August 19, 2015. Accessed September 1, 2016.
  5. Wallace, Harvey. Victimology. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011.

1 Latin for “Father of the fatherland” or “Father of the country”.

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