Friday, March 6, 2009

It's Unethical To Call Smith "Convicted Rapist"

The Supreme Court of the Philippines (SCoRP) recently produced three written Decisions on the custody case of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith: a 9-4 Majority Decision by Justice Rodolfo Azcuna; and two Dissenting Opinions by Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. In the Majority Decision, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is invariably referred to as "Respondent". Chief Justice Puno also uses the term "Respondent" while Justice Carpio uses the term "the Accused Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith". Nowhere in any of these written rulings is the term "convicted rapist" ever applied to Daniel Smith. I think it is unethical for journalists and bloggers to use this term because it unfairly and unjustly precludes the distinct possibility of acquittal on appeal. Moreover it violates the Code of Ethics published by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, where we find:
I. I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.

VII. I shall not, in any manner, ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of sex, creed, religious belief, political conviction, cultural and ethnic origin.

VIII. I shall presume persons accused of crime of being innocent until proven otherwise. I shall exercise caution in publishing names of minors and women involved in criminal cases so that they may not unjustly lose their standing in society.

Notice that in Rule VIII, the matter of publishing names of minors and women was scrupulously followed by most people. To this day, despite the publication of her true identity by RTC Judge Benjamin Pozon, most people know the alleged victim of the crime only as "Nicole." This is but right and proper.

However, it is entirely undignified and lacking in self-respect that the same reporters and commentators blithely use the term "convicted rapist" on Daniel Smith. I suppose this is entirely understandable since the Regional Trial Court of Makati did find him guilty of rape beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, that does not make him a convicted rapist, yet. For after the one RTC judge, at least three out of five more justice of the Court of Appeals must agree that he is guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Assuming that happens, then at least a majority, 8 out of 15 of the Supreme Court en banc must likewise agree to both verdicts of the lower courts, upon the same quantume of evidence and moral certainty. Then and only then will Daniel Smith's PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE be entirely overcome and his conviction and sentence become final and executory.

I see this system of three levels of Courts and Judges as a kind of "Jury System" in a way, in which 1+5+15 or 20 judges are the "jurors". All three courts must vote "unanimously" on his guilt. Just like a bill does not pass into law in the Congress unless both House and Senate approve of it, a person accused of a capital crime in the Philippines is not CONVICTED of that crime until RTC, CA and SCORP agree on that guilt.

It is therefore UNETHICAL to be calling Daniel Smith a convicted rapist at this stage.


Nemesis said...

It's a shame I am unable to voice my total agreement with your stance over this matter (on the pages of FV.)
I too am disgusted by the lynch-mob mentality - the self serving accession to unquestioned contempt, hiding behind the skirts of "Madam Justice" - herself, far from infallible, not beyond the prying fingers of corruption.

Disturbing to realise that those precious seeds of the truth, as written in the book of life, which lie where they fell that November day - have given rise to such distorted growth - the truth itself being strangled and suffocated by the parasites now misrepresenting the whole issue for their own cause.

It is still as it always has been essentially a matter of discerning the moral truth in a brief episode between two people - where beyond the issue of physical sanctity, we encounter the mazes of self-deceit and righteous adjustment - at the heart of which lie those seeds of truth.

Rather a delicate and sensitive challenge for justice - without now being part of a circus.

DJB Rizalist said...

Thank you for this comment.