A message from Faisal Saifee:
I am a barrister-at-law. We were instructed in 2004, following the appeal to the Supreme Court. At that stage the family were desperate and, certainly after the Supreme Court’s rejection of the motion for reconsideration, realised that they could not find justice in the Philippines. I was working with Fair Trials International at the time. Previously, I had spent several months in 2003 researching the death penalty and post-conviction remedies in the Philippines. I had also written a published paper titled “Dead Certain: A critical study of the standard of proof in Philippine Death Penalty Cases” and so was uniquely placed to assist. We filed on 15 August 2005, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee adopted its views on 24 July 2006, following a number of written submissions having been made to the Committee.
Without a doubt, Paco’s case was the greatest travesty of justice I have encountered in my career.
The entire proceedings in the Philippines were blighted by the massive, undue and wholly unprecedented pressure campaign for a conviction. It prevented any possibility of a fair trial. Despite that campaign, even the trial court acquitted Paco of rape and homicide. Astonishingly, the Supreme Court went on to reverse the trial court’s decision without Paco being present, without hearing from the witnesses or even holding a public hearing.
Following a thorough review of all proceedings in the Philippines, the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluded in 2006 that there had been multiple violations of Paco’s fundamental rights. He did not have a fair trial or impartial judges. Particularly, the Committee concluded the trial judge “excluded” several key defence witnesses, “put a number of leading questions to the prosecution” and relied on the evidence of an alleged accomplice who had lied about his criminal convictions, was granted immunity from prosecution and who admitted raping one of the victims. Crucially, the Committee concluded “neither the trial court nor the Supreme Court” properly considered Paco’s case.
The international system is there to intervene for the case that has gone very badly wrong. This was that case and the Human Rights Committee’s views must be respected.