The Passing of Spanish Dominian

Forbes-Lindsay, C. H.: The Philippines under Spanish and American Rules. Philadelphia, 1906: pp. 161-200

The Tardiness of Legal Processes

In 1888, Juan de la Cruz, a Filipino, was arrested upon a charge of murder and lodged in Cavite jail. Direct evidence against him was not forthcoming, although circumstances pointed strongly to his guilt. Witnesses were examined and their depositions taken, but the prisoner was not brought before the court. So months and years passed away and still Juan continued in prison. "Judges came and judges went, but the trial came no nearer. Year after year a judge of the Audencia came in state to inspect the prisoners and year after year Juan was set down as awaiting his trial." Meanwhile some of the witnesses had left the islands and one, at least, was dead. In 1896 a Scotch engineer, who had not been in the Philippines at the time the crime was comitted, was cited by a judge and asked if he could identify the prisoner, ten years after bis arrest. Juan de Ta Cruz was never tried. He may have died like many another prisoner awaiting judgment, or he may have been released when the rebels occupied Cavite.

In 1884, a band of pirates raided the plantation of an Englishman in the province of Tayabas and committed several murders. Twenty-six of their number were captured and lodged in jail. To quote from Sawyer, "Year after year passed, still they remained in prison; judges came, stayed their term, were promoted, and went, but still these men were never sentenced. In 1889 I visited Laguimanoc, this was five years after the date of the murders; some of the prisoners had died in prison, the others were awaiting their sentence. . . . A year later I again visited Laguimanoc, but the trial of the prisoners was no further advanced. No less than nine of them died in prison; still no sentence was pronounced. . . . A few years ago . . . the surviving prisoners were pardoned by the Queen Regent, on the occasion of the young King's birthday."

Foreman says: ,, . . . Whoever might be the legal advisor retained, a criminal, or civil, suit in the Philippines was one of tho worst calamities that could befall a man. Between notaries, procurators, solicitors, barristors, and the sluggish process of the courts, a litigant was fleeced of his money, often worried into a bad state of health, and kept in horrible suspense and doubt for years. When judgement was given it was as hard to get it executed as it was to win tho case. Even then, when the question at issue was supposed to be settled, a defect in the sentence could always be concocted to reopon the whole affair. If a case had heen tried and judgment given under the Civil Code a way was often found to convert it into a criminal case, and when apparently settled under the Criminal Code a flaw could be discovered, under the Laws of the Indios, or the Siete Partidas, or the Roman Law, or the Novisima Recopilacion, or the Antiguos fueros, Decrees, Royal Orders, Ordenanzas de buen Gobierno, and so forth, by which the case could be roopened."

Foreman mentions the celebrated case of Jurado and Company versus the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, as an illustration of the delays and uncertainties attendant upon litigation in the civil courts. Suit was entered in the year 1884.

"The Bank had agreed to make advances on goods to be imported by the firm in exchange for the firm's acceptance. . . In due course the Bank had reason to doubt the genuineness of certain documents. Mr. Jurado was imprisoned, but shortly released on bail. He was dismissed from his official post of second Chief of Telegraphs, worth $4,000 a year. Goods as they arrived for bis firm, were seized and stored pending litigation, and deteriorated to only a fraction of their original worth. His firm was forced by these circumstances into liquidation and Jurado sued the Bank for damagos. The caso was opon for several years, during which time the Bank coffers were once sealed by judicial warrant, a sum of cash was actually transported from the Bank premises, the Bank manager was nominally arrested, but really a prisoner on parole at his house. Several sentences of the court were given in favor of each party. Years after this they wore all quashed on appeal to Madrid. Mr. Jurado went to Spain to fight his case. In 1891 I accidentally met him and his brother (a lawyer) in the street in Madrid. The brother told me the claim against the Bank then amounted to $935,000, and judgment for that sum would be given in a fortnight thence. Still years after that, when I was again in Manila, the case was yet pending and another onslaught was made on the Bank. The Court called on the manager to deliver up the funds of the Bank. On his refusal to do so a mechanic was sent there to open the safes. This man labored in vain für a week.

At one stage of the proceedings the Bank especially retained a reputed Spanish lawyer, who went to Madrid to push the case. Later on a British Q. C. was sent over to Manila from Hongkong to advise the Bank. The Prime Minister was appealed to; the good offices of our Ambassador in Madrid were solicited. For a long time the Bank was placed in a most awkward legal dilemma. The other side contended that the Bank could not be heard, or appear by itself, or by proxy, on tho ground that under its own charter it had no right to be established in Manila at all, etc. Half a dozen times over the case was supposed to be finally settled, but reopened again. Happily it may now (1899) be regarded as closed forever."

It appears that after all the futile litigation this case was finally settled out of court.

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created: November 20, 1997
updated: November 23, 1997
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