At any time within the next few days, an army general discovered to have amassed an inexplicable hoard of wealth will be hauled before a court martial. In ordering the officer's 'immediate' trial, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said: 'The interest of justice and due process must be served to the satisfaction of the people and the soldiery.' That will take some doing. Filipinos familiar with how things work will not hold their breath because they know that, in their country, you do not just get your day in court; you get years. The record of the past two decades shows that the wheels of Philippine justice grind exceedingly slowly - and then apparently stop altogether. The system is clogged with trials which have gone nowhere. Take the case of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. When he was chased out of the country in 1986, he left behind so many documents incriminating himself and his family that there was a widespread belief that he and his clan would be convicted and would serve time in prison. What happened instead was that the deposed tyrant died without having ever seen the inside of a jail cell. His wife, Imelda, is still being tried for corruption but has remained free - in fact, she won a seat in Congress. Then there is that other deposed president, Joseph Estrada, in the dock for the capital crime of plunder. His trial has limped along for three years, with the public having no idea where it is heading. Plunder is supposed to be a non-bailable offence, but Estrada's co-accused son, Jinggoy, has not only managed to get out, he now sits on the Senate. One reason for the delays is that defence lawyers often cause interminable delays. Worse, the system is heavily influenced by politics. Six years ago, Mrs Marcos actually lost one of her trials and was sentenced to jail, losing appeals all the way to the Supreme Court. But when Estrada became president, the government prosecutor filed for her acquittal, shifting the blame on a Marcos crony (who had, incidentally, been acquitted). The net result was that Mrs Marcos was let off. Perversely, the bigger the crime of which you are accused, the more your career flourishes. For years, Marcos cronies Eduardo Cojuangco and Lucio Tan have shrugged off charges of graft and tax evasion, and used their allegedly ill-gotten wealth to become influential power brokers. Gregorio 'Gringo' Honasan, the renegade colonel who led several coup attempts which killed hundreds, was pardoned and became a senator. If she really wants justice to satisfy the people, Mrs Arroyo should realise that they do not need to see any more trials. They want to see convictions that stick.