“The issue is about exercising the judicial power of compassionate intervention and equity jurisdiction to protect those least able to protect themselves.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Families of political prisoners are frustrated with the Supreme Court decision remanding their petition to the lower courts.
After five months, the high court made public its decision on the plea to release 22 political prisoners vulnerable to contracting novel coronavirus.
The high court said that it treated the petition as an application for bail and recognizance and therefore ordered the trial courts to conduct necessary proceedings for the possible release of the prisoners.
“Handwashing works for COVID-19 but not for the SC for this petition,” Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson, said in a statement.
It was on April 8 when the families of political prisoners filed a petition to release the prisoners based on humanitarian grounds. The SC released the decision to the public on Sept. 10. But the decision was rendered on July 28, according to the SC Public Information Office.
“It has been a long and difficult wait, and hurtful because while we expected swift and positive action, the SC, despite the prisoners’ life and death situation in overcrowded, disease-ridden jails, let go of five months and neglected the call of prisoners who hoped for at least a chance to survive,” said Lim, whose husband peace consultant Vicente Ladlad is one of the 22 petitioners in the case.
Lim said remanding their petition to the trial courts would only mean another long wait as the lower courts would need to hear out the new motion.
“Government prosecutors will surely oppose this while heaping more false evidence especially against accused political prisoners to prolong their stay in jail,” Lim said.
According to the SC, the petition “presented several complex issues making the interaction of applicable principles ridden with far-reaching implications.”
The SC said the Court was unanimous in treating the petition as an application for bail or recognizance “as well as motions for other practicable and suitable confinement arrangements, in connection with the purported threats to their health and lives.”
Noting that most of the petitioners are charged with offenses punishable by reclusion petpetua or life imprisonment, the SC ordered the trial courts to conduct necessary proceedings to resolve the petitioners cases immediately.
Lim said that this is more than a legal issue. “The issue is about exercising the judicial power of compassionate intervention and equity jurisdiction to protect those least able to protect themselves. The issue is essentially about humanitarian considerations as a ground for the grant of bail in cases where it is a matter of discretion. Because a remedy for unsafe conditions need not await a tragic event,” she said.
Lim said Rodrigo Lazar, a political prisoner, died from illness last Sept. 9. Lazaro reportedly died from complications from hypertension and diabetes in the Sorsogon provincial hospital. She also noted that the Reina Mae Nasino’s infant could not have separated from her if the High Court had only acted immediately on their petition.
“We cannot quantify the preventable deaths or the painful separation of a mother and child had the SC acted more swiftly,” she said.
Lim reiterated that justice should be also rendered to the powerless and not only to the powerful.
“The wheels of justice should move fairly for all, especially for the powerless not just for the powerful like convicted killer US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton who was granted absolute pardon without even asking for it and Duterte friends like Imelda Marcos and Juan Ponce Enrile who were granted bail for the nonbailable high crime of plunder,” Lim said.