Just the other day when I was about to start eating my breakfast at 10 in the morning, my editor called me to cover a controversial case at the Supreme Court involving the former president of the electric company in Palau. Expecting something like the trial courts in the Philippines, I left my baon and drove to the court, promising lunch buddies Celina and Denice to be back within 30 minutes.
The trial, which was the first one I covered since I worked for Island Times newspaper here started just as soon as I arrived.
I didn’t even sit down properly because I was expecting that one of the lawyers will file a motion for postponement or other motions that will delay the trial but I was in for a disappointment. The Attorney General (AG) began his delivery pointing out the merits and evidences why the defendant should be judged guilty of the 15 counts of cheating and forgery. The minutes ticked by and the AG was still blabbing on and on. I began to nod my head, not in agreement but because of extreme drowsiness. Exactly 45 minutes later, he stopped and the judge gave the floor to the defendants for the rebuttal.
I haven’t expected a full-blown court battle. At exactly 12 noon (can’t believe I was still alive after two hours sitting in court), I had shifted my buttocks in almost all positions available while sitting and had desperately fought my hunger and drowsiness when the judge declared he was not hungry and that the trial will go on till lunch.
Oh gosh! So the court trials here will depend on the stomach of the judges, I mumbled but I couldn’t leave. My buddies were waiting for me because I brought our food in the car. To divert my attention from hunger and wake up, I began fumbling with my cellphone inside my bag, turning it to silent mode before starting to send messages to Celina without looking at the keypad. I had mastered texting without looking at the keypad that if amazed my boss who doesn’t know how to text. Of course he didn’t know that my cellphone back in Davao is the last thing I hold before going to sleep and the first thing I touch when I wake up in the morning.
“Lady, you turn that cellphone off right this minute!” I was startled when a huge Palauan hissed behind my ear. I was irritated because I kept the cellphone inside the bag and it was in silent mode but I obeyed just the same, albeit grumbling.
It was the third day of hearing and the case was judged at around 2 o’clock that afternoon. So that’s how speedy cases are decided upon in Palau. I got another headache because unlike there in Davao, it is so hard to acquire copies of the decisions and other documents here. You have to go to the Clerk of court for it and have to squeeze blood from stones before you can get what you want. I made an appointment to talk with the AG (you can’t simply conduct ambush-interviews here, you’ve gotta make an appointment first) at 10 a.m. the following day to get more details of the case.
I showed up at the agreed time and was informed by the secretary that the AG took the day off and went fishing. Uh-uh.