Friday, June 03, 2005

Mr. Prosecutor is a Person in Your Neighborhood

He comes to court, late as usual, with two bags of folders -- the cases for the day. You wonder if he has only one barong tagalog, because you never see him wear anything else but the dark blue linen he dons day in and day out. The calendar has forty cases, and you can tell, unless he is Superman, that he is ready only for less than half of them. The rest will be reset to another day when they will be reset again until somebody complains.

The first five cases are called, Mr. Prosecutor stands, enters his appearance -"respectfully", he claims-- and asks for a resetting. You hear the gamut of excuses, why this and that witness is coming late, or is not sure of coming at all -- loose bowel movement, training in a camp far away, grandmother died. It can be amusing sometimes. Since the court has forty cases in the calendar, it might as well reset the cases. The public attorney sitting beside Mr. Prosecutor nods, and looks at the judge, "No objection, your honor" Same story, different day.

My case is called. And Mr. Prosecutor is prepared to reset. His police witness is not in court. He knows, unlike the public attorney, who understands the situation of Mr. Prosecutor, with the forty case load for the day, and the hundreds more back in his office, I will object to another resetting. The week before, I recited the provisions of the Constitution on the rights of the accused to speedy trial. Mr. Prosecutor knows I will pull the same trick again, and probably do more. What is the poor judge to do now? "The inefficiency of the State is the problem of the People. The accused should not be made to wait in jail while the State is figuring out what to do. Set him free," I argued. And today, can the poor judge take some more? Mr. Prosecutor is on the brink of defeat.

But Mr. Prosecutor is prepared to postpone. He stands up, directs the sheriff to look for the policeman outside the courtroom, and the sheriff comes back after a few minutes to say what everyone knew all along, the policeman is not there. And before I can stand and say, "I move to dismiss," he tells the court, "Your honor, I move that a warrant of arrest be issued against the policeman." And silence envelopes the court. Mr. Prosecutor has given the judge Sun Tzu's way out. Mr. Prosecutor throws me a look, smiling and knowing he will get his postponement again today. Mr. Prosecutor is the master of postponements. No use making that speech. The judge is sure to take the path of least resistance.

"Your Honor, what do we care about the policeman getting arrested? My client's been in jail for years", that's all I could say, more like a prayer really.

"Everyone on trial here has been in jail for years." Mr. Prosecutor says, like Mephistopheles speaking.

"Next week, your honor" Mr. Prosecutor asks.

"Next week?" I ask.

"Next week. Let a warrant of arrest be issued against the policeman. So ordered." The judge declares as he bangs the gavel, and the sound is drowned by the whispers of the people in the room.

And Mr. Prosecutor takes his seat, moves one folder to another pile, as if telling himself, "Six down, thirty four to go."


Punzi said...

Nice one pare!

They just take "The Art of Postponement" in another level way above ours...

marvin said...

Pare this Prosec is the master of delay. If you were to play chess with him, you'd probably die of old age before you find out who won.

rolly said...

If all prosecutors are like that, it would really be horrible to be charged maliciously. Imagine languishing in jail for an uncertain amount of time simply because the prosecutor keeps on postponing. If we're talking about a bigtime criminal, I'd say, let him rot in jail. But for an innocent guy, that would really be painful.

Anonymous said...

So frustrating. Is that really how the judicial system works? Can we not charge the prosecutor or the judge?

marvin said...

Well, I'm really talking about an extra-ordinary case in a court just outside Metro Manila. The sad reality is there are so many cases pending, and there are not enough courts and prosecutors to work on them. But this is what I've always said, the inefficiency of the State is its problem. The accused, innocent or not, should not be made to rot in jail while the State is straigthening up its act.