EDITORIAL - Waiting for a verdict
- The Philippine Star () - April 20, 2007 - 3:53pm

He has a brand-new Expedition but nowhere to go. Deposed President Joseph Estrada turned 70 yesterday with his fate still uncertain after six years of detention without bail. The Expedition, a gift from his son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, will make the former president’s trips to and from the Sandigan-bayan more comfortable. What he will appreciate more, however, is a ruling on his plunder case.

The former action star who won the presidency by a landslide reiterated yesterday his innocence. If he truly believes this, his birthday wish should be a verdict on his case, which will finally set him free. No more seeking court approval to attend his mother’s birthday celebrations or spend the Christmas holidays with his family. No more photo opportunities on the sly with opposition candidates seeking his endorsement during elections. He may even stage a political comeback or return to the movie screen.

This landmark case has become the most prominent example of the snail-paced Philippine justice system. That slow pace has often punished the innocent and allowed the guilty to get away. Like bureaucratic red tape, the slow pace also encourages corruption in the judiciary. Estrada’s case at least has shown that the system is an equal-opportunity oppressor. No one gets VIP exemption from delayed justice — not even a popularly elected former president.

It is not impossible to speed up the judicial process. We saw this in the rape case involving US Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, which was covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement. The VFA between the two countries sets a one-year deadline for the resolution of criminal cases involving American servicemen in the Philippines. Details of that deadline need further clarification, but Smith was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court within a year of his arraignment.

If a controversial rape case can be resolved in one year, why can’t similar deadlines be observed for other court cases? We can start with the unprecedented case involving a former president. The verdict on the plunder case against Joseph Estrada should not wait until his next birthday.

CASE DANIEL SMITH DEPOSED PRESIDENT JOSEPH ESTRADA ESTRADA JINGGOY ESTRADA JOSEPH ESTRADA MAKATI REGIONAL TRIAL COURT MARINE LANCE CPL SANDIGAN VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
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