May 25, 2024

A 1769 doctrine dating back to Roman law was espoused by William Blackstone when he said, “The law holds that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffers (innocent person be convicted).”
The same was interpreted in an 1895 U.S. Supreme Court case decision stating, “Better to let the crime of a guilty person go unpunished than to condemn the innocent.”
In murder, or any other case for that matter, from the very start of a criminal proceedings against an accused finds himself facing the seemingly insurmountable forces of the State represented by the prosecution arm – Department of Justice – and assisted by the law enforcers – Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies.
They continually point accusing fingers at him as the perpetrator of a terrible crime. He stands to be branded as a felon because of an undeserved indictment. His relatives and friends are humiliated with him. A cloud is cast upon his future life; and his liberty and life, if and when the death penalty is reimposed, is in danger of being forfeited.
He is taken away from the ordinary avocations of life, his profession and employment enters a state of suspended animation. His faith in his innocence, however, must remain steadfast and unshaken.
The traumatic experience and personal crisis, which one undergoes when indicted for a crime, must all the more strengthen his resolve. He must know that, as the wheels of justice turns, in the end, he will be vindicated.
The Holy Bible in John 8:31-32 says “31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Yes, sooner or later, the truth shall triumph and shall set them free.”
When one human being is a victim of a heinous crime, it cannot be denied that the hurt inflicted would be too deep, especially for the loved ones who are left behind. Justice must be done, so be it.
Reality, however, is that sometimes an accused, in the wrong place, wrong time, and wrong era, may have been wrongly indicted, and even if the Constitution says “presumed innocent unless found guilty by proof beyond reasonable doubt,” pending hearing he must suffer in jail for a year or 10.
In the meantime, he can only seek solace in the time-honored principle of that accusation is never synonymous with guilt.
An accused wrongly charged must cry out for justice, too. One can’t fight City Hall, much less Malacañang, and one has no choice but to uncomplainingly and willingly submit himself to the anxiety, the fear, the uncertainty, and the expense of the criminal proceedings against him if only to vindicate himself.
During the trial, the prosecution would do its best to protect the right of the State and the interest of the offended party.
On his part, an accused proclaims his innocence from the beginning and humbly commends his fate to the determination of the cold neutrality of a judge. The State and the offended party invoke justice, but for justice to prevail, the scales must be balanced. It is not to be dispensed for them alone. The interest of the accused must also be equally considered.
An acquittal in a criminal case is not ne-cessarily a denial of justice. Even so as in the tales of old, the issue must be decided in favor of the right and deserving, albeit according to the dictates not of the heart, emotions, or even media, but of the law.
The people must spell out in crystallized detail its legal ground to convict beyond reasonable doubt and with moral certainty. Otherwise, and failing so, accused must assert his right for acquittal.
After all, this is the essence of the rule of law which is expounded by that principle – sic utere tuo alienum non laedas – enjoy your right in such a manner as not to injure the right of others. Tust and prayt – pray yes, trust never.