Get Real

Intolerable and unreasonable


Better late than never. I’ve got to hand it to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. She did not waste any time trying to excuse herself or her department, or attempting to cover up. Instead, she described it as “an unfortunate and deplorable case of violation of the constitutional and human rights of the respondent,” and then immediately ordered an investigation to determine if any official is criminally liable for the “inordinate and inexcusable delay in resolving the automatic review of the Urbina case.”

I am, of course, referring to what happened to Joanne Urbina, who was arrested in 2008 presumably for drug possession and then left to rot in police custody for more than five years without any charges being filed against her.  The rule apparently is that charges must be filed within 24 hours after the preliminary investigation is terminated. And the preliminary investigation was indeed terminated, because the person arrested with Urbina was cleared.

One wishes that a smidgen of De Lima’s forthrightness had rubbed off on some of her subordinates at the Department of Justice. No such luck. Because instead of admitting to and apologizing for their five-year-long error when Urbina’s case came to light (she had petitioned for habeas corpus with the Court of Appeals), they tried to make up for lost time by filing the case against her (violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act). Why the Quezon City Regional Trial Court even entertained their suit, when it was filed five years after the deadline had passed, is beyond the comprehension of my nonlegal mind.

The news reports also give one to understand that a government lawyer (reportedly from the Office of the Solicitor General) was prepared to justify the delay to the Court of Appeals, but the justices weren’t in the mood to listen.

Really. Is it too much to expect a scenario where, instead of waiting for the Court of Appeals hearing on the petition for habeas corpus to be scheduled, government lawyers—either from the OSG or the DOJ—admitted their fault?  Why this waste of the court’s time and of the people’s money?

This is not to say that Urbina is not guilty—unless, of course, the drugs were planted on her. But the CA had the right of it when it called this cavalier treatment of her constitutional and human rights “intolerable,” “unreasonable,” and smacking of “persecution rather than prosecution.”

But the CA did it rather too brown when it said that what happened to Urbina is “shockingly unimaginable.” People familiar with our justice system say that it is actually not uncommon—except that the victims of such treatment generally don’t have the financial resources required to get legal redress, or are ignorant of their legal rights, or worse, afraid to complain for fear of police retaliation. They point to  police stations, for example, where “suspects” are not formally charged but remain there for years and used as unpaid houseboys and gofers, presumably in exchange for their board and lodging.

Compared to Urbina’s case, and the other cases that never even see the light of day (in court),  the incarceration of people like Sergio Osmeña Valencia, or for that matter Luis Quirino Gonzalez, may be considered “relatively harmless.” But the operative word there is “relatively.” While these grandsons of former Philippine presidents were incarcerated for much less than five years—Gonzalez for 486 days and Valencia from Oct. 4, 2012, to June 7, 2013—“relatively harmless” is not a term they would use to describe their ordeal.

Gonzalez was accused of murdering his stepbrother, and he probably would still be in jail now except for what has to be a fortuitous circumstance, in spite of its tragic overtones: At the time of the murder, he was in the basement of Makati Medical Center, having OD’d on drugs—and having been rushed to that hospital by ambulance, with loads of documentary and testimonial evidence to that effect. But it took all of 486 days for the Philippine justice system to accept that fact. And probably millions of pesos in legal fees.

Valencia is accused of plunder. The charge is ridiculous (see my columns on Nov. 24 and Dec. 15 last year), and obviously, the original panel of investigators constituted by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales thought so, too: They recommended the dismissal of the charges. But Morales, for some unknown reason, reversed that recommendation, and the Sandiganbayan accommodatingly found probable cause, ordering Valencia and his coaccused arrested.

In a nutshell, Valencia filed for bail, which the government prosecutors opposed (I am told that they were quite apologetic about it—but in private). The prosecution’s claim that the evidence of guilt on the part of Valencia et al. was strong was eventually turned down by the Sandiganbayan in a resolution promulgated on June 6, 2013, and Valencia was released on bail the next day, which means that Valencia was under police custody (in the same place as Urbina—Camp Crame) for 185 days.

I read the Sandiganbayan decision written by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, with a separate concurring opinion by Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada. The latter’s less-than-one-page concurrence notes that the prosecution’s principal witness failed to establish either the presence or the whereabouts of any ill-gotten wealth, much less that it was amassed in the first place.

Which leads to my nonlawyer’s question: Then why not dismiss the charges out of hand? What a waste of time and money—just to feed the desire for revenge. Carpio Morales can maybe think about doing a De Lima.

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  • mad_as_Hamlet

    * * * * * * * * *

    But I think there are other strange things in this story about somebody being detained by the PNP for more than 5 years without a case being filed in court the whole time, as the following questions will perhaps show:

    1. Did Ms. Joanne Urbina not have a lawyer representing her? Even if she could not afford one, a lawyer from the PAO or the IBP Legal Aid would have been available for free to act as her counsel. A few months without her case being dismissed or filed with the proper court would already have alerted her counsel to take the necessary action.

    2. And what about Ms. Urbina herself? Or her relatives? Or her friends or other third parties who might have known of her detention? Wouldn’t she or they have raised an outcry even during her first year of detention during which she did not receive any notice or order from the prosecutor’s office or from the court regarding her case? And for the next 4 years?

    3. More important and more significant, the PNP officers who had custody over Ms. Urbina’s person, would they themselves not have bothered to check about her case after the lapse of even a few months without their receiving any notice or order from the prosecutor’s office or from the court about it? After 1 year? And for the next 4 years? The PNP is not the jailer of detention prisoners and is supposed to transfer custody to the BJMP once the cases against detention prisoners are filed with the courts. The PNP is supposed to make reports and document all these. Did not Ms. Urbina’s situation as a “continuing” detention prisoner figure in their reports? Enough to raise questions or at least induce them make inquiries about it? For 5 years?

    4. But most important and most significant—- and despite the dramatic language of CA Justice Tijam in describing Ms. Urbina’s detention as one which “conjures up images of Guantanamo Bay detainees who have never been allowed a speedy and fair trial, a civil right granted to all by the Constitution,” language which can easily mislead one into thinking that in this legal scandal the judiciary has no blameful hand at all—-what about the courts themselves, the proper RTC or MTC?

    Section 25 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

    SECTION 25. Court Supervision of Detainees. — The court shall exercise supervision over all persons in custody for the purpose of eliminating unnecessary detention. The executive judges of the Regional Trial Courts shall conduct monthly personal inspections of provincial, city, and municipal jails and the prisoners within their respective jurisdictions. They shall ascertain the number of detainees, inquire on their proper accommodations and health and examine the condition of the jail facilities. They shall order the segregation of sexes and of minors from adults, ensure the observance of the right of detainees to confer privately with counsel, and strive to eliminate conditions inimical to the detainees.

    In cities and municipalities to be specified by the Supreme Court, the municipal trial judges or municipal circuit trial judges shall conduct monthly personal inspections of the municipal jails in their respective municipalities and submit a report to the executive judge of the Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction therein.

    A monthly report of such visitation shall be submitted by the executive judges to the Court Administrator which shall state the total number of detainees, the names of those held for more than thirty (30) days, the duration of detention, the crime charged, the status of the case, the cause for detention, and other pertinent information.”

    Did not the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court having territorial jurisdiction over the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame make a visitation of the said center? For 5 years?

    • kayanatwo


      madz,,, this case about ms. urbina,, IMHO, really do “smells like a rat”.

      • mad_as_Hamlet

        * * * * * * * *
        Sure does. And like a decomposing one. I bet, a large one, too.

        – – -

    • tarikan

      Section 25 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides: As is the case of every law, noble in its goal but rotten in its implementation. Trademark of Philippine justice system.

      • mad_as_Hamlet

        * * * * * * * * *

        Yup! And CA Justice Tijam’s jerky jabber was to jumble and juggle juristic jargon and juxtapose our justice system with that of the American system—-of which ours is a poor and pitiable sottocopy.
        – – -

      • tarikan

        You made my day again Mads. Cheers!

  • virgoyap

    Kapamilya, Kapuso, Kapatid where are you? Why not interview Joanne Urbina so that the public may know?

  • mund_gulid1994

    DOJ, which is supposed to ensure that justice will be availed of by anyone, often fails to this mandate. Surely, DOJ’s personnel sat on the case of Urbina. This goes the same with other cases being referred to the department for investigation, eh mamatay na ang mga petitioners wala pang resolution ang mga kaso. Try requesting the department for a re-investigation of a case kundi siyam siyam aabutin mo.


    i admire your intelligence madame monsod… but the simple answer to the question is that THE GOVERNMENT HAS NEVER BEEN PENALIZED FOR THEIR WRONGS. if they could be or would be penalized, i bet system will have to change.

  • regd

    Another proof that some of us have evolve to become worse than animals. The rest of us just evolves slowly.


      “..worse than animals..”It is TOO easy to equate the worst traits in human beings to the behaviour of “animals”..OF WHICH FAMILY HUMANS ARE INCLUDED!!
      Let’s get this straightened out now..NO animal EXCEPT humans possess the terrible natural traits of ; regularly killing and/or abusing their family members,committing genocide upon countless millions of fellow-humans,starving and driving out millions from their regions/countries,and ruling their own people with severe cruelty and inequalities that a “dumber” animal cannot possibly conceive possible.
      There..that should do it!
      ps..hehe..I do have to pull myself up though,when I am about to label our local pilipinos again as “living like pigs” because they continually foul their nests,neighbourhoods,and waterways with basura ..tonnes of it from sari-sari’s and building projects,home-waste and dead animals!
      Pigs only appear dirty animals because we confine them to such small areas that they cannot use the fathest corner..cos it doesn’t exist.Thus..they have to lie in their”own” muck

  • mike8232

    where is the outrage of the oh so great abnoy in this injustice?

    yellowtard noynoying again ? letting her dumbwitted lackey de lima do whatever?

    ABNOY is pathetic stupid and worthless

  • iping2sison

    Those who are victims of injustices through the fault of government functionaries should be compensated. I hope there is a sane, honest and uncorrupted lawmaker to file a bill for compensating innocents who were acquitted of trump-up charges or due to negligence of prosecutors. The prosecutor in Ms Urbina’s case should be dismissed.

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