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Thursday, 3 May 1984
Page: 1558

Senator TATE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Government continuing to give consular support to Father Brian Gore in relation to the trial being conducted in Bacolod city in the Philippines? Accepting Mr Hayden's assurance that the Australian Government has not involved itself in any consultations between the co-accused and the Philippines Government, nevertheless, can the Minister indicate the Australian Government's understanding of the stage reached in this trial which has proved so significant in determining Australian-Philippine relations?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The latest brief I have on this, which is of today's date, is to the effect that following undertakings made by President Marcos during Mr Hayden's visit to the Philippines from 24 February to 26 February, measures were taken to expedite the trial of Father Gore and his co-accused in Bacolod city. The trial, which opened in Bacolod on 23 February, resumed on 1 March and sat on 17 days until 5 April. Between 1 March and 5 April the court adjourned seven times; each time, though, with the agreement of both the defence and the prosecution.

When the court adjourned on 5 April the prosecution was given until 10 April to present its exhibits and the defence until 16 April to submit any objections. It was also agreed that the prosecution would have a further 10 days in which to consider whether to recall any of its earlier witnesses, following which the judge would decide on any issues which had arisen. A defence petition for the dismissal of charges against all the defendants was lodged in Bacolod on 30 April. There have been discussions about the dismissal of charges between the defence and the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr Borromeo. It is possible that the court will reconvene sometime in the next two weeks to respond to the defence petition, but it is not expected that the trial will resume until the second half of May. Officials from the Australian Embassy in Manila have attended all the court proceedings and will continue to do so when the trial resumes. A representative of the Law Council of Australia has also observed much of the trial.