THE sensational rape and murder of a 58-year-old grandmother, her 35-year-old daughter, and the daughter’s three children in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, has inflicted a big wound on the nation and has rattled the composure of many.
The crimes have expectedly roused the indignation of many citizens, and revived public demand for stern measures to punish crime and enforce law and order.
Because the main suspect initially confessed to having committed the crimes while under the influence of drugs, the case has also renewed public interest in the war on drugs.
But now, the seemingly open-and-shut Bulacan massacre has become very complicated and confusing. Two suspects in the crimes have been killed, the apparent victims of vigilante justice. The main suspect, Carmelino Ibañes, has recanted his confession, and now claims to having been tortured by the police. Significantly, he tested negative for illegal drugs.
Finally, the case has triggered frantic calls for Congress to act posthaste on the restoration of the death penalty.
All these impel us to ask: What are the facts of this case? What have the police established so far?
These myriad developments—the shocking nature of the crimes, the torturous progress of the investigation and the clamor for harsh punishment—should alert law enforcement authorities to the paramount need to tackle the case with total professionalism and strict observance of due process.
The chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Isidro Lapeña, erred in trying to capitalize on the case to secure publicity for himself. The problem with this and all the knee-jerk reactions to the tragedy is that they do not have the facts on their side. They have been proven untenable as facts have slowly emerged.
Obviously, the way forward is for competent authorities to undertake the official investigation of the case. Facts about the crimes and responsibility for the crimes should be disclosed to the media and the public judiciously and by competent spokesmen. These measures will lead to public calm and understanding, and will make unnecessary hasty crusades for justice.
That said, we want to emphasize that rape and murder have been committed against five helpless people in this tragedy. The crimes and the perpetrators should be dealt with severely.
Equally, the authorities must investigate the vigilante liquidation of suspects, which has made the public highly skeptical.
As we strive to take criminals into custody and bring them before the proper courts, we must guard against precipitate action that will only aggravate the tragedy and do more harm to society.
The Bulacan massacre is a big blow against law and order in our country. Our top officials are right to be concerned about the anxiety it spreads among our people and the injury it inflicts on the national image abroad.
This is now a time to show that our system of criminal justice truly works in our country. We have competent public servants in place. We do not countenance shortcuts in the administration of justice.
In time, the situation will come to normal. Rationality will prevail, or so we hope.