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Maria Isabel C.

Del Valle

Of Justice (Just Is)

For a word that is used often, the topic of debate still remains. Essentially, justice is the quality
of just behavior and treatment. People use this term interchangeably to refer to "fairness" and
"equality" because a good society which people desire for is founded on fairness and equality.
However, justice per se cannot be defined absolutely. Some might say that it s the sum total of
several factors that brings justice into fruition. Others argue that justice is what is 'right' based on
the concept of morality, ethics, law, religion, equality and fairness. One must take into
consideration these factors to fully understand what justice is and what constitutes it. The
concept of justice in early times had it simpler. For example, Plato in his work The Republic
gives forth an early construct of justice; that of which is issued from God. Meanwhile a
contemporary political philosopher John Rawls' theory of justice involves fairness as its basis.
One of justice's ideals should be in the scope of the 'rule of law' where all decisions should be
made in accordance with the law. So the childbirth of the age-old adage no one is above the
law. Hence, people should respect the rule of law as it ensures all decisions and actions of
people are aligned with their country's law. And if these said said laws are non-existent, is there
justice still?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that to achieve justice, sacrifice, suffering and struggle are
inevitable; that these elements are the products of undaunted efforts and passionate concern of
each one of us. This paints a picture of a bloody image of justice - a society that revolves in
death and violence. Case in point, the Philippines' own Oplan Tokhang, where drug-users are
being killed without due process is the very picture of justice that should come to mind. Truth be
told, no justice system is perfect. Take for example Arab countries where there is a scarcity of
law; weak institutions exist, while privilege and discrimination deepen socio-political and
ethno-religious divide. A Kuwaiti blogger Sondos Al Quattan was recently slammed for criticizing
legislation which gives Filipino domestic workers one day off each week and forbids employers
from retaining their passports. She believes that as employers, they have the right to retain the
passport of their domestic workers to prevent these employees from running away and
breaching their contract. And this is what constitutes justice for this person, and maybe for
others too because for the longest time laws did not include rights of the Filipino domestic
workers to have rest days nor to keep their passport at their will. Furthermore, law may not
absolutely guarantee justice at all times. It may be superficial at times and this is when justice
fails. Such is the case with the U.S.'s existing immigration laws which are now separating
immigrant families who are seeking asylum - undocumented individuals even as young as
infants and toddlers have been separated from their parents for detainment and questioning.
Clearly it follows the law, but would one say that it is just?

By and large, laws are put forth not to serve justice itself to the people, but to give everyone a
chance at justice. Ergo, people should be capable of proving their argument to the satisfaction
of an institution that is knowledgeable of the laws - a jury. And that means it is not the most
righteous that wins but the most skillful in satisfying the jury.