OPINION: Miranda warning

Tin Bartolome

Posted at Aug 25 2016 11:07 PM

I used to hear snippets of this in movies and on TV only, but later, as an adult, its importance made such a profound impact on me. 

“Miranda Warning” or Miranda Rights arose from a case (Miranda v. Arizona) where Miranda was convicted after he confessed to robbery, kidnapping and rape during interrogation but was later overturned because of the harsh way the investigation was allegedly conducted. This gave rise to the requirement that all criminal suspects be informed of their rights.

With the enactment of RA 7438 (AN ACT DEFINING CERTAIN RIGHTS OF PERSON ARRESTED, DETAINED OR UNDER CUSTODIAL INVESTIGATION AS WELL AS THE DUTIES OF THE ARRESTING, DETAINING AND INVESTIGATING OFFICERS, AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF), police officers face 10 years or more of imprisonment if they fail to read the Miranda Rights to the person being arrested. 

The Miranda Warning has a Tagalog translation and as of last year, 3 other languages. 

Over 20 years ago, I worked for an alternative law group that not only gave free legal service to groups involved in class suits but also non-formal legal education. 

I do not know if things have changed drastically since then but we observed that many, especially the less educated, were not interested in the law—until they become victims. To many of them, contracts seemed to be more burdensome than protective of their rights. 

Being aware that there are laws that protect our rights means a great deal because we may be robbing our descendants of their rights to what we think we have secured for them. Many uneducated owners and their heirs have been cheated of lands they have cultivated for generations when they failed to register these under the Torrens System.

The law is not necessarily a burden as it was made to protect. It becomes a burden when we do not fully understand the language in which it was written and the reason why it was passed. Like other ideas, it is often neutral and could also be used by the unscrupulous and immoral. We see this happening across all economic and social classes, all professions even.

Sometimes, the righteous become the victims of those more knowledgeable in law in the same way reckless drivers not only get in the way of those who are mindful of traffic rules and regulations, they sometimes sideswipe them, hurting them in the process. 

Rights are there for the taking, to be protected and even asserted—especially when there are people who do not respect them. We need to actively protect some of our rights, but we can also help protect the rights of others. But if no one speaks up, nothing happens.

The ongoing Senate hearings on extra-judicial killings make me cringe when incompetent and obviously biased “investigators” waste precious time asking questions that tend to show an intention to prove that even the witnesses are guilty of something— like failing to warn their loved ones that dealing drugs is against the law. 

About a year ago, our policemen had been warned of the consequences of failing to read the “New Miranda” and the 

Anti-Torture Warnings to those they arrest: a minimum of ten years imprisonment and possibly an administrative case against them. More importantly, whatever valuable evidence they discover will be inadmissible, useless in pursuing the case.

These laws were made for a reason, the biggest of which to me is that this is what democracy is about. These laws that protect our rights may have been re-interpreted, twisted this way and that—but these days, they have been rendered inutile.

As a mother and as an ordinary citizen, I am afraid for my children, not because they are not law-abiding citizens but because they face the same risks these drug dealers and users do. 

Whatever I have done to help them respect the rights of others may come to naught by a single bullet—a bullet from those who do not value these warnings.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.