The Manila Times - The law’s delay

15 October 2020

By Rene Saguisag | The Manila Times

AQUILA Legis neophyte Lenny Villa’s tragic death occurred on Feb. 10, 1991, in a frat hazing session. The case was decided with finality in 2015, after more than 24 years.

On appeal from a regional trial court decision, I represented neophyte Zosimo Mendoza, acquitted with a score of others. The others were convicted. The acquittal ruling was appealed in a rare and unusual case and the case reached the Supreme Court — a case of quintuple jeopardy.

Suffering delay involves many factors, not only the children of anyone, particularly the prominent. Were Hubert Webb the son of someone else, the ordinary guy, Fulano de Tal, may have been discharged right after the preliminary probe in a non-existent case.

In 1963 to 1967, Chief Justice Art Panganiban, Dean Tony Abad and I represented Herminio Astorga; we were kind of rookies collaborating in a protest over who won as vice mayor in Manila. Loser protestant Alfredo Gomez questioned nearly all the precinct results. Judge Arsenio Solidum asked him how long it would take him to present his case. He named hundreds of precincts and said a few months.

The judge asked me sort of fiercely: “And you?” He should give us due process of course and I said casually, “at least a year” of daily afternoon hearings. This upset the belligerent protestant who came to me as if to punch me but the court and crowd didn’t allow any damage. After three years of hearings, the case was decided in 1967, another election year, when I had left for studies abroad.

The loser was otherwise gallant in many ways dealing with the law’s inevitable delay. It was a time of caballeros/compañeros when we focused on knowing the law, not the judge.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reportedly alleged numerous polling places as cheating venues; my informal friendly sources say that Veep Maria Leonor Robredo has indeed managed to increase her own lead thus far (?). Bongbong may have his own scuttlebutt. And their case competes with countless other crushing demands on the time of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the Supreme Court). When we were young, there were hearings on Saturdays and wellness leaves were unheard of. Everyone worked harder with jurassic equipment.

So, to ask and press for what one wishes, he may get it.

Else, the sad fact is that in many ordinary cases postponed today, the resumption of hearing may well be into 2021. Progress?

Too many cases.