Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How long can justice be served in the Philippines?

..Ethel Brunty has been waiting for three decades now just to get what she has been fighting for: moral damages for the death of her daughter, Rhonda. In January 1980, Rhonda died after the car she was in collided with a Philippine National Railways (PNR) train in Moncada, Tarlac. The mishap also took the life of driver, Rodolfo Mercelita, but spared the second passenger, Juan Manuel Garcia. Three years after the accident, Brunty and Garcia filed for damages against PNR at the Manila Regional Trial Court, which eventually awarded a P1.15 million compensation costs in their favor in 1990. But the case dragged on for another 15 years after PNR asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to review the ruling. In August 2005, CA affirmed the lower court’s decision, raising the death indemnity for Brunty from P30,000 to P50,000 but nullifying the P72,760 car damage reparation. Refusing to surrender its case, the state railway company filed another petition for review with the Supreme Court the following year. And in its ruling, the High Court upheld CA’s liability verdict even after removing the award for actual damages of P500,000 due to “lack of basis.” The process deducted P500,000 from the original P1.15 million moral damages imposed by Manila RTC. In a six-page decision promulgated October 18 this year, the Commission on Audit (CoA) ordered PNR to pay P500,000 in moral damages to Brunty and Garcia. CoA chair Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan ordered that the claimants are also entitled to P50,000 death indemnity of Rhonda based on original court ruling. In the same decision, Tan as well as CoA Commissioners Juanito G. Espino Jr. and Heidi L. Mendoza also agreed for the recompense of P50,000 legal expenses and P25,000 temperate damages. “Wherefore, premises considered, the instant petition/money claim in the amount of P625,000 and costs of suit, representing the outstanding liability of PNR to Petitioners pursuant to the final and executory judgment of the SC in “Philippine National Railways vs. Ethel Brunty and Juan Manuel M. Garcia, is granted,” the COA declared. More than three decades after filing the case, Brunty still waits in vain for PNR to pay up. ..