PHILIPPINES: Responses to Abadilla Five case reveals judicial delay a shared experience

(Hong Kong, July 2, 2008) Random interviews conducted by a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have revealed that the plight of the Abadilla Five is a shared experience and common knowledge amongst respondents.

These random interviews, which began in early June, highlights the endemic problem in the administration of justice in the Philippines, which often results in delays in the completion of court cases.

An excerpt from interviews of some of the 20 respondents so far, reveals the lack of judges and lawyers as reasons of the delays; ” There are limited judges and lawyers who work in courts that is why the progress is very slow in the cases filed”, said Princesa Sevilla, a court stenographer in Panabo City, referring to her own experiences.

“Too many cases filed in our courts cause the delay and slow process of obtaining justice. But honestly, 80 to 85 percent of justice or determination of rights are obtained by those who have money to pay,” said another, Jerry Sia, traffic enforcer in Davao City.

A father whose son is also in jail, Victoriano Galang, laments the way in which the detainees and accused are treated prior to the conclusion of their cases: “Suspect miserably languishes in jail as if they are already convicted. Suspect in jail though not yet proven guilty but are already considered criminal by law and by society”. Victoriano’s son, Hernani, has been imprisoned over false charges at the provincial jail in Davao del Sur.

A common complaint amongst respondents was the lack of resources and money in pursuing legal expenditures to cases in court; and the lack of any effective legal aid in the country depriving the poor, who are often likely convicted or deprived of adequate trial, the possibility of obtaining legal aid.”Poor people cannot obtain justice because the rich ones have the control,” said Dodong Husay, a tricycle rickshaw driver.

Even members of the security forces agreed that: “Slow justice system is experienced by poor people, rich ones get it instantly”. That’s why we cannot also blame the human rights progressive groups for fighting the unfair and unjustifiable justice system if this is always the case,” said Private First Class (Pfc) Reah Viña of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Davao City.

The Abadilla Five’s continued detention is a similar experience for other detainees and prisoners. For example, at the Ma-a City Jail in Davao City: “The case will be immediately reviewed should the detainees have much money. Just like in Ma-a City Jail, detainees suffer in prison without the assurance if they can prove whether they are innocent of the charges filed against them,” said another respondent, Ambo Lara, a dispatcher at Davao City Overland Transport Terminal.

While others suggests that political influence and strong publicity can be an effective tool or alternative means in pushing pending court cases, others have already resigned themselves of any hope by having getting themselves contented to what has been the practice. “We cannot do something if the progress in cases filed is slow, all we have to do is wait”, said Alejandro Resabal, a newspaper vendor.

The president’s intervention has already been seen as another means by which to speed up cases experiencing excessive delays in court regardless of whether it undermines the judiciary: “It’s been quite a while and the President should help in the case. I sympathize with the detainees because they were convicted and their case was not reviewed. It is money who runs everything here, if you have no money, justice is impossible to attain”, said another respondent,” Rico Gulay.

“If that’s the case (Abadilla Five) that they were already jailed for several years, they should ask help from Gloria Arroyo. The government should give answers for the slow justice system here in the Philippines,” said another respondent, Roselle Ababa, a newspaper distributor.

What the respondents have revealed reflects the already endemic problems in the administration of justice in the Philippines. Even though these practical problems are themselves a common knowledge and a shared experienced, there has not been any substantial progress on part of the State to effectively address this; for instance, the continuing delay in the completion of review on the Abadilla Five case.

The AHRC has began conducting this series of interviews to get other persons, particularly those who have already experience and those who are presently experiencing similar condition of judicial delays in the Philippine courts. You can also email your own feedback to:

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-021-2008
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Abadilla 5