I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Why those soldiers should be pardoned

I’m not even going to go into their apologies and how scripted it all seems. That’s beside the point. As I see it, what matters is the nature of their offense. Or more precisely, the motivation behind the offense. Think Valjean.

Those Magdalo boys took action because they felt that they had no other recourse. They were frustrated with government, with their leadership, and with the perceived apathy of their countrymen. Unlike Joseph Estrada, they were not motivated by greed. Their crime, therefore, even if they ended up causing damage to property and endangering human lives, was ultimately political. Practically not a crime at all, except from the point of view of the incumbent leadership.

Of course it can be argued that, as valid as they felt their grievances to be, they should not have tried to take the law into their own hands. A fair enough statement, except that these boys are themselves the product of our times and in all likelihood, saw no other way to do things. The military should be apolitical, but the fact is, the military has already been politicized. Taking concrete political action, therefore, is no longer inconceivable. It might even be said that if they had pulled it off, there would have been no crime at all. It’s the nature of the beast called coup d’etat.

So, in committing that political action, they offended in two ways: first, against the general public with the damage to property and such; and second, against the powers whom they tried to topple. The way I see it, they’ve paid their debt to the public with the incarceration they’ve already suffered. As far as their debt to society goes, I think that’s been wiped clean. All that remains is their offense to the powers. And so we find ourselves at the cross roads where cynicism ironically intersects with what is morally correct.

It is morally correct to safeguard the expression of political rights. Every person in society has the right to seek from government redress of grievances. That includes soldiers. In many ways, a soldier’s right to ask for redress is channeled through various mechanisms from which the civilian is spared; but that doesn’t mean that the soldier’s right does not exist. His exercise of that right is merely made less direct.

In this case, the Magdalo boys simply ignored those channels after having come to the decision that adherence to them would be fruitless. Questionable judgment? Of course. But everyone also possesses a God-given right to be stupid. So, despite the stupidity of bypassing the proper mechanisms for seeking redress, the direct action taken by the soldiers was nevertheless an expression of their right to demand that their government make right what has gone wrong. And that right must be protected.

On the other hand, from the point of view of a prince, it is good policy to defuse potential enemies by recruiting them to your side. If all it takes is an act of leniency, so much the better. You lose an enemy, and you gain an ally. At the very least, you defang your former enemies by making them appear weak so that in the future, should they think to rise against you once more, they will have difficulty rallying support as thy will have been stigmatized by your clemency.

No need to bother with pretensions of nobility here; just a straight ex-deal.

Given these two factors – one noble and the other cynical – the inescapable conclusion is that it is right to pardon these soldiers.

What they do with that pardon is a different story altogether.


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