FOR only $2 million—less than P100 million—you can enjoy dinner for two in Singapore. This dinner is an eight-hour retreat that includes 10,000 fresh roses, an 18-course dinner, vintage wines and the one-of-a-kind Jane Seymour Fancy Vivid Blue diamond ring.
According to Forbes Magazine, “Two guests will be seated in custom-made designer furniture and will eat using diamond-studded chopsticks that have their names engraved in them.”
Hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipinos could easily afford this adventure. However, just money does not qualify the buyer. “The experience will only be sold to a qualified individual. Factors being considered include the buyer’s status [just how influential is he or she], the buyer’s affinity for blue diamonds, and how he or she plans to flaunt/display ‘The Jane Seymour ring.’”
After providing for the needs of basic survival, human societies have grappled with its greatest problem: crime and punishment. No matter which form of government, from authoritarian to utopian, stopping wrongdoers and then punishing those who commit crimes still is a dilemma.
We struggle with defining and then balancing the “rights” of the victims with the rights of the criminals. Even the supposedly iron-clad rule of law is in question. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew wrote, “In criminal-law legislation, our priority is the security and well-being of law-abiding citizens rather than the rights of the criminal to be protected from incriminating evidence.”
In the commercial marketplace, we expect that a buyer with the money can purchase whatever product is for sale. While perfectly true that the seller can decide who to sell to, there is something uneasy about that concept as having to qualify to purchase the Singapore dinner-for-two. In law and society, it is the idea of “impunity.” Impunity is the “exemption from penalties granted by authorities or statutes.” By the written law, for example, a sitting Philippine president cannot be sued or have legal cases filed against him or her. There are valid reasons for that. But we know as a truth that the politically and/or financially powerful can gain even more power by not being subject to the laws that the rest of us “little people” are subject to.
The city mayor parks illegally and is not given a ticket. The senator moves to the front of the line and is given preferential treatment. The drug lord has a more luxurious life behind bars than millions of law-abiding citizens have in their own homes. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights writes this: “Impunity arises from a failure by state to meet its obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished.”
When the government—or even the people—gets to decide who is investigated and prosecuted for potential crimes, we are only a few steps removed from the time when the toughest or most politically connected person in town can make the rules for the weak. At that point, civilized society fails.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano