Navigating the Filipino justice system
Harry Doyle was a successful businessman from New Brunswick, who sought love in the Philippines. That's where he was murdered, by the sea at a tropical resort. And the search for his killers stretches from Asia back here to Canada.
Researching "Who killed Harry?" required navigating through Canadian and Filipino justice systems, as a court in Fredericton rules on matters related to Harry Doyle’s estate, while a court in Surigao City is hearing the case of two of the four people accused of Harry’s murder.
And for someone used to the cut-and-dry Canadian legal system, wading into the waters of the Filipino system was delightful at times and very confusing at others.
English is the language of record in the Philippines, but it’s not the mother tongue in a country that has a minimum of eight dialects, and people from one island are jokingly called “foreigners” on another.
If a murder is attempted, but unsuccessful, the criminal code terms it "frustrated murder," court transcripts are “steno-notes” and the title of “attorney” is used by lawyers the same way "doctor" or “professor” are in Canada.
In the matter of Harry Doyle’s murder, there is a state prosecutor, but the heavy-lifting in the courtroom is done by a private prosecutor, in this case Attorney Alfonso Casurra, the former mayor of Surigao City, who was hired by Harry Doyle’s sisters.
He explained that it is important in murder cases for the victim’s family to be separately represented and to take the stand – that’s just the way it works in the Philippines.
When the artists working with police had a difficult time producing a “cartographic sketch” with the eyewitnesses to the murder, the police resorted to a different investigative technique: they produced a “gallery of hardened criminals” – a compilation of a dozen photos of males who had been previously involved in shooting incidents.
When we ordered copies of the court transcripts, we were provided with the originals – “because this is going to Canada.”
The transcripts themselves are on almost-legal-sized-paper that feels like tissue, bound together with staples and string. And transcripts are something the new judge in the murder case will need, because the old judge retired halfway through the case.