Jose Antonio V. Sanvicente’s law

Thank God it was recorded on someone’s mobile video.

The victim, Christian Joseph Floralde, was seen lying on the road apparently grimacing in pain after a white Toyota RAV4 with plate number NCO3781 had hit him. The SUV stopped, of course, because any driver can feel such an impact from inside the vehicle. But with part of Floralde’s body still underneath the vehicle, the driver proceeded to run over him – and then, vanished.

What callous conceit and downright disregard for human life!

As a traffic enforcer, Floralde was doing his job directing the flow of vehicles on Julia Vargas Street in Mandaluyong City that Sunday, June 5. At the very least, that makes the driver of the SUV  liable for ignoring a traffic enforcer.

Then senator-elect JV Ejercito entered the picture as intermediary. He set up an alert on his Facebook account,  announcing a “P50,000 reward for any info regarding this evil and idiot driver who purposely ran over a traffic enforcer.” He added that  the family of the missing hit-and-run driver had contacted him.

For stirring public awareness of the incident, Ejercito is to be commended. He followed up with a tweet: “Jose Antonio San Vicente, turn yourself in.” The Land Transportation Office (LTO) had identified the person to whom the vehicle is registered and its assigned driver at the time of the incident as Jose Antonio V. Sanvicente, son of Joel Sanvicente.

Notice the behavior of the Sanvicente family. Their first instinct was not to turn over the son but to run to a politician for help. In fact, when police officers attempted to visit their house in Diliman, Quezon City, subdivision guards refused them entry. That is another typical behavior.

In our social system, it is not uncommon to seek legal help from politicians who gladly play the role of padrino to their constituents.  But this padrino system to ensure votes come election time does not always work in favor of the law. Many politicians are themselves violators of the law. In fact, unverified social media scuttlebutt claims the Sanvicentes are relatives of a high-ranking Duterte cabinet official.

Why do such kinds of rumors circulate?

Actual praxis induces it. It is very common occurrence in our social system that the high and the mighty in the corridors of power protect members of their family and relatives who face the quandaries of their infractions of the law.

Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Joel Sanvicente may turn over their son to the authorities as their choices run out in evading the law. If they truly have protectors, they can resort to an amicable settlement with Floralde. In which case, Floralde should refuse. Jose Antonio V. Sanvicente must be prosecuted and jailed.

On June 6, the day after the shocking incident, police filed charges of frustrated murder and violation of the Revised Penal Code at the Mandaluyong Prosecutor’s Office against the younger Sanvicente for abandoning his victim. This is a test to see if the law will catch the Sanvicentes who had rather run to a politician for help even as they may apparently have links to a powerful  government official to protect them.

Cases of obstruction of justice were also filed against the subdivision’s three security guards who twice barred entry to the police. Last Saturday, June 11, still no Sanvicente had showed up to comply with an LTO summon. For such behavior, this family cannot blame public perception that they must indeed have powerful backers in government.

Almost five years ago, Kian Lloyd delos Santos did not have the same luck  as Jose Antonio V. Sanvicente. Kian was not found guilty of anything. In fact, the young man’s death at the hands of the police was also accidentally captured on video, his pleas to be spared – he had an exam the next day, he cried – were ignored.

If Kian were the son of rich Filipinos who live in a gated subdivision, can afford a Toyota RAV4, run for mediation to a senator when in trouble and have protectors in the high echelons of government, he could still be alive today.

There are two kinds of laws in the Philippines: one for the rich, another for the poor.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.