For the longest time, the justice system in the Philippines was said to crawl at a turtle’s pace. Now, that situation has worsened to a very old snail’s pace.
There are cases that few are aware of, just as there are cases that are known to all. The Maguindanao massacre, for one, occurred more than four years ago, and the only justice that the families of the victims can look forward to is for the principal suspects to die of old age while remaining incarcerated.
Yet another case that has been festering for some time now does not involve a crime as grim as the cold-blooded killing of more than 50 innocent civilians, more than half of whom were practicing journalists who were only covering a valid story.
The case of Turkish ambassador to the Philippines Hatice Pinar Isik occupying a mansion in North Forbes Park may not have a direct effect on the majority of the people. But she has been asked to vacate the property by its present owner, a request that she has not only denied, but ignored.
This may seem to be a case of the rich and the powerful versus the powerful and the influential, but at its most basic it remains a case where an aggrieved party is seeking justice. The request to vacate has been festering for three years now.
At least it is not expected to last as long as the case filed against the Ampatuans, which one legal luminary said might not be settled for a hundred years.
This is beyond slow. This is an injustice.
The country’s courts are clogged, and little has been done to ease the bottleneck. Meanwhile, new cases are added to the ones that have been pending, while the country maintains the same judicial structure that plods along, seemingly with no sense of urgency.
To be fair, there were attempts in the past to ease the backlog. At the level of the Supreme Court, for example, then Chief Justice Hilario Davide ordered a faster processing of cases before the high tribunal.
The creation of the barangay quasi-courts also took care of “smaller” cases involving residents of villages. A neighbor who accidentally destroys another neighbor’s property need not file a case before a regular court, not without going through the barangay judicial system.
But it is hard to imagine a Zobel or an Ayala or a Montinola or any of the country’s super rich agreeing to settle legal differences over their properties with their barangay chairman. As for the Turkish ambassador, she does not fall under the influence of the local courts, and can easily cite diplomatic immunity. What then?
Relative to this, what about “smaller” cases involving foreign businessmen and tourists who are either charged with crimes, or who are victims of wrongdoing?
Last week, the local outlets owned by a billionaire operator of several online gambling sites were raided by the authorities. This will almost certainly result in a lawsuit, since the local operations were properly registered.
There is a saying older than all of us: Justice delayed is justice denied.
It is sad to note that in the Philippines, delayed justice is the norm and not the rule.