PHILIPPINES: On the Supreme Court affirmation of the “Abadilla Five” conviction 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following statement from Judge Soliman M. Santos, Jr. of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTC) in Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur.

Judge Santos is the former legal counsel of two of the Abadilla Five detainees–Lenido Lumanog and Augusto Santos, before his appointment as trial court judge.

The Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

A Statement from Judge Soliman M. Santos, Jr of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTC) in Camarines Sur forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PHILIPPINES: On the Supreme Court affirmation of the “Abadilla Five” conviction

As a long-time defense counsel of the “Abadilla 5,” particularly of Lenido Lumanog and Augusto Santos in the later stages, I am saddened by the news of the Supreme Court’s decision affirming their conviction for the 13 June 1996 ambush-slaying of former Col. Rolando N. Abadilla. As now already a judge myself, of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur, I am especially duty-bound, more so than practicing members of the bar, to uphold the rulings of the Supreme Court. But even as I respect this particular ruling, I am still quite saddened because of a strong belief, I can say shared by all defense counsels with intimate knowledge of the case, that the “Abadilla 5” were plainly innocent of the Abadilla murder. And yet they had already suffered much for it in terms of more than 14 years imprisonment while their case was still pending final resolution and subjected to delays in the appellate stages. There is also the long delay in the preliminary investigation of their own complaints against their apprehending police officers for torture committed on them, still pending first with the DOJ from 1996 to 2004 and then with the Office of the Ombudsman from 2004 to the present. Many years of hard and mostly pro bono work had been put in by the various defense counsels fighting for their defense and for their rights.

Short of being able to get to read the whole decision and the several concurring and dissenting opinions, I have only the Supreme Court Public Information Office release about it today to go by for now. The reported majority decision emphasizing the positive identification by a lone purported eyewitness over the inferences from ballistic and fingerprint examinations results, among other defense evidence, and the reported dissenting opinions of two of the four dissenting associate justices pointing out “the gross violations of the accused’s constitutional rights as well as the seriously flawed identification of the accused as the perpetrators of the crime” and “that the Court should have taken judicial notice of the fact that Abadilla had always been a natural target of the communist’s death squad, the Alex Boncayao Brigade,” — all these reinforce the strong belief adverted to earlier.

The remaining defense counsels of course still have the option to seek reconsideration of the decision; this is their judgment call, as it were. Beyond the judicial process, there is of course still the realm of executive clemency — and with or without that, the judgment of history and of divine providence. From my position now, my heart can only go out to the “Abadilla 5” for what to them can only seem as the latest in a long series of unfortunate events. May they find some solace somehow from the finality or near finality of the 14-year judicial process, and from those who continue to support them, especially their loved ones.

9th MCTC of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur
16 September 2010

Reference links to the full text of the Decision and Opinions:

Supreme Court Decision

Justice Lucas P. Bersamin Concurring Opinion

Justice Antonio T. Carpio Dissenting Opinion

Justice Roberto A. Abad Dissenting Opinion

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

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Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-075-2010
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Abadilla 5
Issues : Judicial system, Right to fair trial,