Thursday, January 20, 2011

‘Abadilla 5’ suffers another setback at SC -, Philippine News for Filipinos

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‘Abadilla 5’ suffers another setback at SC -, Philippine News for Filipinos

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:12:00 01/20/2011

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice), Crime and Law and Justice, Legal issues

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has set aside the petition of an activist priest purportedly offering new information on the case of the “Abadilla 5,” delivering yet another blow to the long-drawn legal battle of five men convicted of killing former Col. Rolando Abadilla.

Practically dismissing the proffered evidence as hearsay, Supreme Court spokesperson and administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the magistrates junked the petition of “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes for leave to manifest for lack of merit.

Marquez said the high court had yet to render its decision on the motion for reconsideration filed by Joel de Jesus, Lenido Lumanog, Rameses de Jesus, Cesar Fortuna and Augusto Santos.

On Sept. 7, 2010, the high court voted 10-4 in upholding the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s decision finding the five accused guilty of killing Abadilla, a notorious military intelligence officer during the Marcos dictatorship.

In his dissenting opinion, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the conviction of the five was a “blatant and unacceptable transgression of the constitutional rights of the accused.”

He said their conviction was “speedy, but false, justice to the aggrieved.”

No personal knowledge

“The court did not find merit in the leave to file that manifestation so the motion has been denied and the consequent manifestation has been noted without action,” Marquez said in a news briefing.

“It appears that Father Robert Reyes does not have personal knowledge of what was told to him precisely. It was just mentioned to him,” he added.

Despite the latest legal setback, Reyes vowed to continue helping the Abadilla 5 and their families’ quest “for truth and justice.”

But he said the Supreme Court’s ruling might prompt them to reconsider their earlier decision to embark on a hunger strike

Torture charges

“We are not stopping the fight. Now, we just have to prepare to go on a hunger strike with the way they are treating the case,” Reyes said in a phone interview.

Reyes, the families of the Abadilla 5 and their supporters had initially threatened to go on a hunger strike to press the Office of the Ombudsman to act on the case against 15 policemen who allegedly tortured the five.

They decided to forego the plan after Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez said she would act on the case. Last week, the anti-graft body recommended the filing of charges against the policemen.

According to Reyes, he and others supporting the Abadilla 5 would exhaust all legal and extralegal means to free the five men who, he said, epitomized the injustices that poor Filipinos have to put up with.

“He (Marquez) may be right when he said that I did not have personal knowledge (of the killing.) But what I know is that there was a miscarriage of justice,” the priest said. “I have been part of the families’ search for truth and justice. I’m a witness to their sacrifices. There’s so much at stake here.”

Although he expected the high court to strike down his pleading, Reyes said he was surprised with the haste with which the justices acted on it.

Invisible hand?

The justices, he said, should consider the findings of the Ombudsman that the five men were unlawfully arrested and tortured by the police.

“I have accepted the possibility that this would happen, but not this soon,” he lamented. “This is really saddening. It makes one wonder why the [justices are] adamant in hearing our evidences. There seems to be an invisible hand behind their moves.”

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