Latest Stories

Court orders woman freed after 5 years without charges


The Court of Appeals has directed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the incarceration of a woman for five years without charges, a situation that it says is similar to that of detainees in the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

In a decision handed down on June 11, the Court of Appeals’ Seventh Division dismissed the drug charges government prosecutors brought against Joanne Urbina only last month and ordered her released.

Urbina was arrested on drug charges in December 2007, but, for reasons not clear to the court, state prosecutors failed to bring charges against her until May 9, way beyond the 24-hour period prescribed by law and the 30-day period prescribed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) within which an automatic review of cases should be resolved, the court said.

“More than five years of detention, without a valid information filed in court, is unreasonable; it is intolerable; it is shockingly unimaginable,” the court said in the decision written by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, chairman of the Seventh Division.

The court said what Urbina had gone through “smacks of persecution rather than prosecution and pierces through the very essence of fairness and justice.”

“It conjures up images of Guantanamo Bay detainees who have never been allowed a speedy and fair trial, a civil right granted to all by the Constitution,” the court said.

Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a United States military holding and interrogation center within Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.

For terrorists

Also known as Camp Wire and Gitmo, after GTMO, the military abbreviation for Guantanamo Naval Base, the detention camp was established in 2002 by the administration of US President George W. Bush to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely without charges.

But Urbina’s case involves illegal drugs and detaining her without charges for five years is an incredible violation of the law.

“We find it necessary to direct [Justice Secretary De Lima] to conduct an investigation on the underlying circumstances [that] caused the five-year delay in the filing of the questioned information and to furnish this court with the result of the investigation immediately upon its completion,” the court said.

The court granted Urbina’s petition for certiorari and habeas corpus, which stemmed from her alleged arbitrary detention at the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

It also voided the drug information brought against Urbina only on May 9 “for having been filed way beyond the period prescribed under the pertinent rules of the Department of Justice and for being violative of petitioner’s constitutional right to a speedy disposition of her case and due process of law.”

And the court ordered Urbina released, unless she was detained for other lawful causes.

Drug case

Urbina and one Ben Chua were arrested during a police raid on their home in Quezon City on Dec. 14, 2007. Police found in the house what they said tested later as methamphetamines and marijuana.

The two were taken to the PNP custodial center in Camp Crame and subjected to an inquest the next day, after which they asked for a preliminary investigation.

On Jan. 25, 2008, the DOJ dropped the case against Chua for insufficiency of evidence but upheld Urbina’s indictment for violation of the illegal drugs law.

She remained detained, as the law does not allow bail in drug cases.

In September 2011, Urbina filed a petition for habeas corpus in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, questioning the legality of her prolonged incarceration without any information filed against her.

But the trial court denied her petition, saying that she had executed a waiver of her detention when she agreed to a preliminary investigation.

The trial court denied her subsequent motion for reconsideration.

On April 2, Urbina sought relief from the Court of Appeals, this time questioning whether the government had violated her constitutional right to a speedy trial, among other rights.

In her petition, she said she had been languishing in jail for five years and two months without the benefit of a trial.

She filed the petition against De Lima, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano and Assistant City Prosecutors Alfredo Agcaoili and Wilfredo Andres of Quezon City.

Right violated

The appellate court took her side, saying a “careful scrutiny of the evidence on record” showed that Urbina’s constitutional right to a speedy disposition of her case was “indeed violated.”

The court said that after it held hearings on May 9 and 10 in response to Urbina’s petition, the respondents filed an information against her on May 9 in the Quezon City court, based on the May 8 resolution of the DOJ affirming the Jan. 25, 2008, resolution of the assistant city prosecutor of Quezon City.

Urbina then sought to restrain the filing of an information against her and the appellate court granted her petition on May 17.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: court , Court of Appeals , drug charges , incarceration , Joanne Urbina , Leila de Lima , Rights and justice

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  2. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  7. Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  8. South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  9. Two Popes who would be saints
  10. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  7. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  8. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  9. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  5. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  6. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  7. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  8. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  9. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  10. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct


  • Tens of thousands travel by sea this Holy Week
  • Police: Dad smothered toddler to play video game
  • 7 killed in shooting in China-Vietnam border
  • Chinese trade group to mediate shoe factory strike
  • Malaysia, Australia in deal on black box custody–report
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Marketplace