PHILIPPINES: Supreme Court is requested to review Abadilla Five case urgently

The AHRC in its letter to you on May 5, has asked the Supreme Court to take appropriate action to ensure that the appellate review of the Abadilla Five case is effectively conducted. We have also asked the Court to promptly resolve the merits of the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by the appellants.

As you are aware, before the Court of Appeals (CA) concluded the appellate review of this case on April 1, it has already dragged for over eight years. Though long overdue, we welcome the conclusion of the appellate court’s review. However, we were shocked by the manner it was conducted. There were actually no real or substantial reviews, or anything of this sort, based on our readings of the CA’s decision.

The CA’s decision affirming the lower court’s conviction, were actually the arguments plagiarized from Solicitor General’s (OSG) brief as the documents have shown. The merits of the appellants’ arguments, which challenge the very heart of the conviction, were largely ignored in the review. These merits, too, have not been adequately and effectively dealt with thereby denying the appellants’ Constitutional right to review.

However, nearly a month after the petition for review is filed; we are not aware of any encouraging progress, if there is any. We are seriously concerned that unless the SC acts on this effectively and promptly, this may once again be delayed further as it happens in the past. We are aware that even prior to the CA’s long overdue conclusion, the SC has failed to act on this case in the last five years on the pretext of amendments on Rules of Court.

As you are maybe aware, the UN Human Rights Committee on 20 March 2008/Communication No. 1466/2006, has held that the undue delay has violated the appellants’ rights; and it is unjustifiable to delay cases on the pretext of the amendments to court rules, particularly those on review. The Committee has also urged the Philippine government to provide an “effective and enforceable” remedy.

Thus, we therefore urge the SC, as it considers the UN Human Rights Committee’s findings, to ensure appropriate and just attention to the Abadilla Five case in the following ways:

PROMPTLY RESOLVE PETITION: As the Committee already held that the undue delay had violated the appellant’s rights, the SC must ensure the Petition for Review on Certiorari is promptly completed. However, in doing so the substantial merits of the appellants’ petition should also be adequately looked into. The review of this case could no longer afford to suffer further delay.

RESOLVE MERIT AND CONTRADICTION: In acting on the petition, the substantial merits of the appellant’s argument; and the contradictions on which the decision of conviction had been affirmed, should be looked into. It is the SC’s utmost obligation, that to deprive these five persons’ of their liberties, there should not be a molecule of doubt; and that their Constitutional rights to review by the high tribunal are upheld.

PROVIDE REMEDY TO VIOLATIONS: Also, the SC should reconsider, should this happen once again, sending back the appellate review to the CA. For the SC to resolve this review promptly by exercising its judicial power, as the highest court of the land, and thus  give meaning to the UN Human Rights Committees  insistence on “effective and enforceable remedies.”

PREVENT JUDICIAL DELAYS: Apart from the case of Abadilla Five, we are also concerned about endemic cases of judicial delays in Philippine courts. The Committee’s findings had reinforced the public knowledge of cases of court delays. In taking care to prevent similar violations in the future, the steps taken by the judiciary should be effective in preventing delays.

We trust that you will take appropriate action on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-015-2008
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Abadilla 5