Two unconscionably delayed cases | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Two unconscionably delayed cases

THE PHILIPPINES is notorious in the world for having the slowest judicial system. The wheels of justice grind oh so slowly. Reasons can be corruption, lazy and cowardly judges, justices and prosecutors, clogged court dockets, and dilatory tactics of the defense.

One new dilatory tactic is to persuade judges and justices to inhibit themselves— through bribery, threats or pakiusap—from a case. The case makes the rounds of justices and judges, each of whom inhibits himself with one pretext or another.

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There are two capital cases I will narrate to you that are being delayed like this. One is a kidnap-for-ransom case, now 10 years in the Regional Trial Court, transferred from one judge to another (10 judges have already inhibited themselves); the other is a triple homicide case, now 16 years old, languishing in the Court of Appeals for 10 years where 17 judges have inhibited themselves from the case one after another. Worse, the defendant, already convicted by a lower court, was allowed to get out of jail by posting bail, and is now mayor of a Cagayan town. The families of the victims have written to three chief justices (Hilario Davide, Reynato Puno and Renato Corona) to make the cases move faster. They merely endorsed the letters to the Court of Appeals who simply ignored them. The Supreme Court did nothing. These cases are making a mockery of our justice system, and the Philippines the laughingstock of the world.

Let me begin with the kidnap-for-ransom case:

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On Sept. 27, 2001, Jacky Rowena Tiu, 29 years old, was kidnapped by eight Chinese nationals some 25 meters from her residence in San Fernando, La Union. With her was her mother. At gunpoint, Jacky was forcibly taken while her mother was allowed to go home to deliver the message that Jacky would be released in exchange for P10 million.

For eight days, Jacky was shifted from one hideout to another, first in Tarlac, then to Cavite.

Her family paid the P10 million and she was released. Soon thereafter, police from Region 1 and from Camp Crame arrested all the kidnappers and recovered the P10 million.

Kidnapping charges were filed and State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon was assigned to head the prosecution team.

After two years, the trial was transferred to Manila upon request of the prosecution because of the perceived bias of the judge coupled with the disturbing rumor that money had changed hands. In La Union, five judges were assigned to the case although only one actually heard the trial. In Manila, five more judges were assigned to the case but only three took turns in hearing the case. The others inhibited themselves one after another; one retired optionally.

In mid-2006, one of the accused, Zhang Du, aka Wilson Zhang, was released from detention using spurious documents from the Department of Justice (DoJ), National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration and other offices. He reportedly returned to China. When this was brought to the attention of the DoJ, Jacky was assured that an investigation will be conducted but nothing came out of it. Jacky never received any result of the supposed investigation; no one was punished, no one made accountable, and the issue remains unresolved to this day.

Three years ago, the case was submitted for resolution to Judge de Castro of Manila RTC, Branch 51. A few weeks thereafter, the judge retired without deciding the case. Two more judges were assigned to the case but both inhibited themselves.

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Finally, the case was assigned to Judge Antonio Rosales of Branch 52 sometime in 2009 for resolution. It is now 2011.

Meanwhile, there are rumors that the accused, now detained at Bicutan, Taguig City, have intentions to buy their way out, either by bribing their guards or the court personnel. Last March 21, Jacky received from an unknown sender three identical text messages:

“KIDNAPPED ME IS OVER. Ur boyfriend and 5 others will release their resolution of acquital by last week of MARCH and they are planning to revenge. sum of their contact are rounding there in la union to pain down u or any member of ur family. They also want to file moral damages after their release. DOJ insider.”

The term “kidnapped me” was used by the defense to claim that one of the conspirators was Jacky’s boyfriend. This indicates that the text may have come from the kidnappers themselves.

A happy footnote of Jacky’s rescue: One of her rescuers was Region 1 Police Director Arturo Lomibao who became PNP chief. When Lumibao’s wife died of cancer, he courted Jacky and they were married. They now have a son.

* * *

The other case now languishing in the Court of Appeals is the triple homicide case against Licerio Antiporda III who, on election day of May 8, 1995, shot and killed Edwin Cusit, Johnny Alonzo and Ben Maggudayao in front of a precinct in Barangay San Isidro, Buguey, Cagayan. A fourth victim, Jimmy de Guzman, survived. Antiporda III is the son of then-Mayor Licerio Antiporda Jr.

After six years of trial, Judge Teresa Soriaso of the Manila RTC convicted Antiporda III of three counts of homicide and one count of frustrated murder. Antiporda appealed the decision.

On Jan. 23, 2002, CA Justice Bienvenido Reyes affirmed the RTC decision. But five days later, he recalled his decision, claiming that his job was only to complete the records, and endorsed the case for a re-raffle.

The case was re-raffled 10 times as the justices, one after another, inhibited themselves from the case. For the last 16 years, the case was assigned to 17 justices, all of whom inhibited themselves, citing various reasons.

Meanwhile, Antiporda III was able to post bail, got elected vice mayor of Buguey and is now its mayor. He was recently accused again of murder which is still pending before the DoJ in NPS Docket II-02-OMB.

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TAGS: Crime and Law and Justice, judiciary, kidnapping, politics
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