PHILIPPINES: Lawyers seek to nullify Abadilla Five’s conviction

(Hong Kong, May 5, 2008) The legal counsels of the Abadilla Five has filed today a Petition for Review before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to declare as “null and void” a decision by the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming their clients’ conviction.

On April 1, the CA has affirmed the eight-year old decision by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City convicting the five accused. In its decision, the CA has modified into reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment the accused conviction from capital punishment. Death Penalty has been abolished in 2006.

In their 42-page petition, lawyers Soliman Santos and Vicente Dante Adan, argued that there was “a grave failure of appellate review”. The CA, instead of substantially reviewing the case, has plagiarized the arguments contained in the appeals brief of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in May 2004.

Apart from that, the CA has also ignored the arguments invoked by three other legal counsels in the appeals brief; relied on contradictory testimonies of lone witness; mis-appreciated one of the accused’s alibi denying his presence at the scene of crime and disregarded vital pieces of evidence.

The legal counsels also asked the SC to take over in resolving the review and not to send the case back to the CA to prevent further delay.

Moon Jeong Ho, programme officer for Urgent Appeals programme of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), urged the SC to decide promptly.  The SC has earlier failed to conclude the review for five years until the case was transferred to the CA.

Jeong Ho said the CA’s decision did not only deprive the accused of their right to have their case adequately and promptly reviewed, they also had to suffer undue and unnecessary delay. It took the review over eight years to be completed.

“The SC must now act on this petition for review promptly and effectively. This case can’t afford any longer delay. They must also look into the merit in reviewing this case because it involves life and liberty of these persons,” Jeong Ho said.

The AHRC has shared with the legal counsels’ opinion with deep concern regarding the CA’s decision plagiarizing the prosecution’s arguments virtually making themselves as prosecutors in reviewing the case.

Meanwhile, the AHRC has also modified today its campaign website on the Abadilla Five case. Those who support this case could send electronic mails (email) directly to the SC justices demanding for their appropriate action.

The previous campaign has called for the CA justice Agustin Dizon Jr., to conclude its appellate review before he retires on June 2008. Though Justice Dizon completes the review, it is insufficient and not favourable to the accused. The modified campaign would now focus on the SC.

It would demand for the SC to act on the petition for review promptly, to ensure that a substantial review takes place and likewise prevent further delay.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-011-2008
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Abadilla 5