The case of a woman detained by authorities for more than five years without any case filed against her is a shocking reminder of what’s wrong with the justice system—and everything else in this country.
A few days ago, the Court of Appeals ordered the release of Joan Urbina, saying her detention for such a long period of time was unconscionable. It also castigated prosecutors at the Department of Justice for depriving her of her right to a speedy trial.
A cursory examination of the case is enough for anybody to lose faith in the inherent goodness of man.
On Dec. 14, 2007, Urbina, along with her live-in partner, Ben Ryan Chua, a Chinese national, was arrested by the police in Kamuning, Quezon City, for drug pushing.
For some reason, the prosecutors—Claro Arellano, Alfredo Agcaoili, and Wilfredo Andres—subsequently issued a resolution absolving the man but ordering the filing of information against the woman.
It’s understandable that people should readily conclude money has changed hands. By all indications, the man was the principal suspect here. The woman, on the other hand, could only be an accessory.
To be fair, the police officers may have arrested the couple because they had committed a crime. But why did the prosecutors file the information only after Urbina, through her lawyer, went to the CA? What were the prosecutors waiting for? An out-of-court settlement? For how much?
The prosecutor in charge explained the record of the case had been misplaced and, along with it, the resolution. Thus, the delay in the filing of the criminal complaint.
But the prosecutor was being disingenuous. The family must have been following up the case from time to time. It is not as if they had just forgotten all about her. They went to the CA for relief, didn’t they?
No, the explanation does not wash. The guy simply ignored them, and we can only surmise the reason.
DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima tells us she is filing an administrative case against the prosecutors. These people deserve no less than a criminal charge and, if convicted, a number of years in the national penitentiary. But maybe we should be grateful for small favors.
It is an open-and-shut case, so we expect those involved to be dismissed from the service at the very least.
Maybe the woman did commit the crime, and so the years she spent in jail is an appropriate punishment. Hell, drug pushing calls for life imprisonment.
However, the case leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It demonstrates that there is selective application of the law in this country, as shown by the boyfriend going scot-free. Worse of all, the flaw in the justice system could—and does—lead to people being made to suffer for crimes they did not commit.
It is thus important that the DOJ rid itself of prosecutors who are lazy, incompetent, indifferent, or just plain corrupt.