PHILIPPINES: Abadilla Five–the AHRC welcomes ‘conditional pardon’ 

Abadilla Five campaignThe Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased that Leila de Lima, secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ), has recommended to President Benigno Aquino III the granting of a “conditional pardon” to the Abadilla Five. The Abadilla Five: Lenido Lumanog, Augusto Santos, Cesar Fortuna, Joel and Rameses de Jesus, are serving terms of life imprisonment in New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City after the SC convicted them in September 2010.

The AHRC has for many years, raised questions over the credibility of Freddie Alejo, the lone witness for the prosecution, and the heavy reliance by the SC on his testimony to affirm the conviction. We are pleased that De Lima, as quoted in this report, is also of the opinion that there were questions as to the credibility of Alejo. The SC’s decision did not put closure on the Abadilla Five case, but rather was left unresolved on whether the guilty verdict was reached “beyond reasonable doubt”.

The AHRC strongly maintains that the Abadilla Five are innocent. The charges and the evidence against them were the products of the violations to due process and fair trial, fabricated and politically motivated. Thus, we welcome De Lima’s recommendations that a “conditional pardon” not “commutation of the sentences” is fitting for their release as the former does not require admission of guilt unlike the latter. They have no guilt to admit.

The AHRC shares the hopes of these prisoners and their families, for humanitarian consideration, that they be freed, and be allowed to return to their families. One of the prisoners, Lumanog, is a kidney transplant patient and his release on humanitarian ground is long overdue. To allow these prisoners to endure further suffering knowing full well the legal and credibility questions of their conviction serves no purpose. It does not serve the interest of the family of Colonel Rolando Abadilla because the real perpetrators are not being punished.

Releasing these prisoners on “conditional pardon” is the only way the government can correct the wrong committed on the five prisoners. The government and its system of justice has the obligation to afford them remedy and restitution. In doing so, the AHRC also reminds the government of its long overdue obligation to:

First, implement UN Human Rights Committee recommendation in 20 March 2008 to “provide an effective and enforceable remedy in case a violation has been established” for the delay in trial of their case. For details, read: ALRC-STM-007-2008;

Second, ensure that prosecution for the “arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of the detainees” based on the recommendation of the Office of the Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) are adequately carried out. For details, read: “Torture victims’ 14-year quest for justice“.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-268-2012
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Prison conditions, Prosecution system, Rule of law, Torture,