Practice Relating to Rule 100. Fair Trial Guarantees
Section F. Trial without undue delay
The Philippines’ Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (2000), in the rule dealing with the rights of the accused at trial, states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be entitled to the following rights:
(h) To have a speedy, impartial and public trial.
The Philippines’ Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law (2002) states:
Sec. 26. Duty of the Family Court to Protect the Rights of the Juvenile. – In all criminal proceedings in the Family Court, the judge shall ensure the protection of the following rights of the juvenile in conflict with the law:
h) To have speedy and impartial trial, with legal or other appropriate assistance and preferably in the presence of his parents or legal guardian, unless such presence is considered not to be in the best interests of the juvenile taking into account his age or other peculiar circumstances.
In the Abadia case before the Supreme Court of the Philippines in 1994, an application by the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces to annul a decision by the Court of Appeal, requiring him to show lawful cause for the continued detention of Lt. Col Malajacan without trial, was denied. In doing so, the court noted:
In the context of the constitutional protection guaranteeing fair trial rights to accused individuals particularly the Right to a Speedy Trial, we cannot accept petitioners’ submission that the absence of any specific provision limiting the time within which records of general courts martial should be forwarded to the appropriate reviewing authority and for the reviewing authority to decide on the case would deny private respondent – or any military personnel facing charges before the General Courts Martial, for that matter – a judicial recourse to protect his constitutional right to a speedy trial. What petitioners suggest is untenable. In the case at bench, the records of the case may indefinitely remain with the General Court Martial, and our courts, because of a procedural gap in the rules, cannot be called upon to ascertain whether certain substantive rights have been or are being denied in the meantime. That is not the spirit ordained by inclusion of the second paragraph of Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution which mandates the “duty of the Courts of Justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.” Moreover, the absence of rules and regulations mandating a reasonable period within which the appropriate appellate military authority should act in a case subject to mandatory review is no excuse for denial of a substantive right. The Bill of Rights provisions of the 1987 Constitution were precisely crafted to expand substantive fair trial rights and to protect citizens from procedural machinations which tend to nullify those rights. Moreover, Section 16, Article III of the Constitution extends the right to a speedy disposition of cases to cases “before all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative bodies.” This protection extends to all citizens, including those in the military and covers the periods before, during and after the trial, affording broader protection than Section 14(2) which guarantees merely the right to a speedy trial.
These rights are clearly available to all citizens even in the absence of statutory enactment. They cannot be denied to certain individuals because of gaps in the law for which they are not responsible. They cannot be taken away from certain individuals because of the nature of their vocation. Members of the military establishment do not waive individual rights on taking up military uniform. That they become subject to uniquely military rules and procedures does not imply that they agree to exclusively fall under the jurisdiction of only those rules and regulations, and opt to stand apart from those rules which govern all of the country’s citizens. As the respondent Court correctly held:
As admitted by counsel for respondents, there is no time frame within which to transmit the records of the case to the reviewing authority as well as time limitation within which the Chief of Staff must act on the recommendation of dismissal However, it must be stressed that the absence of a rule does not give to the Chief of Staff indefinite time within which to act at the expense of the constitutional right of a citizen to enjoy liberty and to be protected from illegal or arbitrary detention.
Respondent court, therefore, did not commit an abuse of discretion in ordering the petitioners to act with dispatch in dealing with the private respondent’s case. Over three years have elapsed since the respondent’s arrest. To this day, there is no indication – and it has not been alleged – that records of the case have been forwarded to the appropriate military appellate authority.
This case does not even involve complex issues of fact and law. The central issue which the appropriate military appellate authority will have to review is whether or not the General Court Martial was correct in dismissing the case on grounds of prescription under Article 38 of the Articles of War. We cannot see why the military appellate review authority should take an interminable length of time in coming up with a decision on the case. The unjustified delay in dealing with the respondent’s case is a deliberate injustice which should not be perpetrated on the private respondent a day longer.