The Toronto Sun Copyright (c) 1996, The Toronto Sun Publishing Corp. Tuesday, February 6, 1996 TAG: 9602050078 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 11 LENGTH: 71 lines HEADLINE: THEY THREW AWAY THE KEY BYLINE: BY HEATHER BIRD TEXT: If someone talked to you about a deadline and meeting it in a "general time frame," what would you consider reasonable? Does "general" mean within a day? A week? Or could it be longer than a month? Well, the answer depends on the issue and its importance in the overall scheme of your life. If it's a February estimate on the cost of landscaping your backyard this spring, then you can wait. If it's the results of a medical test, you probably don't have the same flexibility. And if you're someone like Rudy Pacificador, every minute past the deadline counts. Rodolpho Pacificador has appeared in this space before. He stands accused of murder in connection with one of the most notorious political assassinations in the history of the Philippines. But those charges didn't come to light until after he had fled the country. He sought - and received - refugee status here in 1991 on the grounds of political persecution. At that time Canada had no extradition treaty with the Philippines. That has since changed. And, in the fall of 1992, while he was waiting for a bus, Rudy Pacificador was arrested. He has been held without bail in the Don Jail since then. The problems at Riverdale's crumbling citadel have been well-documented. It is intended, at best, to be a short-term hellhole. He has no exercise. No TV. He is not allowed a pen. Unlike federal inmates, he sees his family through glass. They are "no-touch" visits. His daughter is about 6 now and has no memories of being cuddled by her dad. While officials in Manila insist they have a strong case, there are serious reasons for skepticism. Two key witnesses have been offered immunity although their evidence conflicts with other key aspects of the case. His co-accused have been held without bail since 1986 while his own lawyer is now in custody. For months now, Pacificador's legal challenges have been at a standstill. His case rests solely in the hands of federal Justice Minister Allan Rock. His lawyer, Wes Wilson, originally sent his final submissions to the justice minister's office on Nov. 25, 1994. On May 17, 1995 the justice department responded and asked for some supplementary submissions. Those were made and forwarded on Sept. 6, 1995. A week or two later, a spokesman for Allan Rock's office said a decision would be expected within a few weeks. October passed, then November and, on Dec. 8, Wilson wrote to Rock again. "I would appreciate receiving from you an estimate of when we can expect your decision on the surrender issues. Thank you." The one-paragraph response was speedy. "The departmental analysis of the case is complete. Given the complexity of this particular case, due time must be afforded for its consideration. We anticipate, however, a decision from the minister by the end of January and will communicate with you if that general time frame changes," read the letter dated Dec. 13. It was signed by lawyer Louise Proulx. As of two weeks ago, a spokesman for Rock was unable to say with any certainty when a decision can be expected. As every schoolchild knows, January ended almost a week ago. And Rudy Pacificador is still in jail. His lawyer is understandably reluctant to start making demands. After all, with this much at stake, he doesn't want to risk triggering an unfavorable decision. So there he sits. The father of a Canadian citizen who is not charged with committing any crime in this country. He has no sunlight. No privacy. No personal possessions. No library. Just a sea of noisy humanity which has ebbed and flowed over the years but has always left him in its wake. If you're Rudy Pacificador and you're being held in jail, without bail, then a "general time frame" is this: one minute past the government's self-imposed deadline is a minute too long. And every minute longer is nothing short of cruel.
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