MANILA, Philippines - In June 1996, five men were arrested at random for the murder of an influential police colonel and intelligence officer during the Marcos regime, called Rolando Abadilla.
They were brutally tortured while in police custody. Three years later they were convicted, and sentenced to capital punishment.
However since January 2000, the appellate review on the sentence imposed by the lower court – which could have been decided with finality – unnecessarily drags on. For five years it was left with the Supreme Court (SC) without decision; and later the Court of Appeals (CA) took over the case. Nearly three years on and with nine justices appointed to handle the case, still they have failed to complete the review.
The five prisoners have been in jail at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntilupa City. One of the prisoners has a worsening medical condition. The appellate review is currently pending with the ninth judge, Justice Agustin Dizon, who is also retiring on June 27, 2008.
So far there is no substantial progress yet that the CA will act promptly to conclude the review of their sentence.
This case illustrates how miserable lives of prisoners could become due to excessive court delays and the reality of how oddly the system of justice functions in the Philippines, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.