Key test for Philippine tribunal

Hearings on extrajudicial killings begin but few witnesses willing to appear.

by
    Silver Flores has been in jail for more than
    three years waiting for his trial to begin
    Hearing Flores' case is Judge Silvino Pampilo, one of 99 justices tasked by the supreme court to prioritise such cases and expedite decisions in 90 days.
     
    Pampilo admits the job at hand is not easy. He has been receiving death threats since this case came before him, and there have already been many delays to the trial.
     
    Scared
     
    On top of that, he says, many witnesses are unwilling to testify, have disappeared or are said to have died.
     

    Judge Pampilo says many witnesses
    are unwilling to testify

    Others are simply scared that if they testify, their lives too will be in danger.
     
    The tribunals are being seen as a credibility test of the entire Philippine judiciary, but gathering evidence with a lack of witnesses willing to step forward has been near impossible.
     
    Supreme Court Justice Adolf Azcuna says the tribunals are a critical for the future of the Philippine judicial system.
     
    "It is at a juncture that would test its credibility and its ability to work as a criminal justice system," he says, "and it’s very important that we handle these cases very well."
     
    Protests
     
    The first hearing of the triubal drew protesters outside the court angry at the slow speed that the wheels of justice are turning.
     

    Critics says the wheels of justice
    are still turning too slowly

    Previous to this tribunal only three cases have gone to trial.
     
    Convictions were handed down in two of them, but many Filipinos believe only the fall guys are in jail while and the real masterminds remain free.
     
    With the special tribunal now in operation the government feels it is showing the world that it is doing its part.
     
    But critics say until the government can make its people feel safe enough to participate, the special tribunal will not make much difference at all.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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