PHILIPPINES: ‘Abadilla Five’ mark 14 years in prison

(Hong Kong, June 18, 2010) To mark the 14th year of their imprisonment the families of the ‘Abadilla Five’ detainees once again held a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court in Metro Manila to renew their calls for justice. They are asking the court to resolve at once the detainees’ appeal convicting them for murder. 

The number of years they have spent in jail also marks the death on June 13, 1996 of Colonel Rolando Abadilla, an influential police colonel during the dictatorial regime of President Marcos. Abadilla’s death resulted in the illegal arrest and torture of the five detainees. 

After years of trial, the ‘Abadilla Five’ were convicted for his murder on April 21, 2008. They appealed against their conviction at the Supreme Court asking that it nullify and void their conviction by the appellate court. However, to-date it has failed to conclude their petition. 

For further details, please visit the AHRC campaign website: Abadilla Five: Jailed for decades without justice. 

On June 14, Fr. Roberto Reyes, a staff member of the AHRC, once again led a demonstration together with the families of the detainees at the Supreme Court building. Prior to that, in January 2009, similar demonstrations had also been held on the same demands. The family members and relatives have been holding demonstrations annually to put pressure on the court and draw the attention of the public to their plight. 

Fr. Roberto and the AHRC have been following this case for several years. In 2009, the AHRC published a book entitled: Abadilla 5 FAMILIES: When will their waiting end? which contains interviews of the family members who gave details in their quest for justice. 

In his article reproduced below, Fr. Roberto said of the families’ continuing action: “They are no longer acquaintances (to me) or partners in an advocacy. They too have become family to me. I have known and worked with them for the last eleven years since 1999”. 

Apart from demonstrating at the Supreme Court, the families have also gone to the residence of Philippine President-elect Benigno Aquino III in Quezon City, where they handed over personal letters asking for his intervention. 

Below is an article written by Fr. Roberto Reyes: 

Love Will Set Them Free 

Last Sunday, June 13, 2010 was the 14th anniversary of the murder of Colonel Rolando Abadilla. Since it was a holiday yesterday, the annual trek to the Supreme Court of the families of Abadilla 5 took place today. 

I left my parents’ place around 7:00 a.m. and reached Padre Faura a little past 8:00 a.m. I parked my jeep at nearby Robinson’s Mall and sat at a nearby restaurant to wait for the Abadilla 5 families to arrive. Most of the Abadilla 5 relatives were travelling by public transport from Fairview. They must have left much earlier to make it to our agreed rendezvous at 9:00 a.m. 

The families are no longer acquaintances or partners in an advocacy. They too have become family to me. I have known and worked with them for the last eleven years since 1999. The wives and the parents of the five men have grown old. Their children have matured. Some have married and many are now working and helping their wives survive without a husband. While I help them because I believe in the validity of the cause of working for the freedom of innocent men, this is now accompanied by a deep sense of the enduring and sacrificing love that sustain the families in this protracted struggle. 

It was a typical Abadilla 5 rally. We carried a streamer in front of the Supreme Court with the following content: 

Abadilla 5 
June 1996 to June 2010 
Labing Apat na taon na. Hanggang Kelan Pa?

We bought flowers to Chief Justice Corona. Five white roses to symbolize five innocent men. 14 red roses to symbolize fourteen years of suffering of both the five in prison and their families outside. 

After our short rally at the Supreme Court, we proceeded to President Noynoy’s house on Times street. Here we had the personal letters written by the five to P Noy received by his secretary. There were lots of interview and pictures taken. This is usual but whether any of these will appear is for the editors to decide. 

From Times street we proceeded to QC Memorial Circle for a simple picnic. As I drove my jeep from Padre Paura to Times and finally to QC Circle, I was in constant conversation with three wives: Malou, Che and Melanie and Ogie’s grandmother. We continued to hope against hope and believe that something new will happen with the new administration. 

While the families kept telling me that were it not for my persistence, they too would have gradually lost hope in a hopelessly unjust justice system, I knew there was also something in them that made them endure the long struggle. Ten year old Gianna kept saying that she loves her lolo and wants him out. Ogie’s Grandmother has been the only relative left caring for him since his wife abandoned him many years ago. Though separated from Rameses, Melanie who never fails to join us, explains, “I believe in the cause, that’s what keeps me going father.”Che who in spite of her poverty does everything to raise her children without Joel and makes sure she saves enough money each time to be able to visit him in Muntinlupa. 

While I do my part to help the families, they continue to inspire me as well to persist in this not too easy task. The past eleven years have not only taught me persistence. It has taught me how to fight and struggle with love. 

Loving Father, bless the love of the families of Abadilla 5. May their sacrifices soon be rewarded with justice and freedom. Amen.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-012-2010
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Abadilla 5
Issues : Independence of judges & lawyers, Prison conditions, Right to fair trial, Rule of law,