CJ Sereno expresses concern over Duterte's narco list

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - August 8, 2016 - 4:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday questioned President Rodrigo Duterte's naming of judges allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, saying it was premature to do so.

Sereno admitted that the judiciary, a separate and co-equal branch of government, was caught off guard by the president's announcement last Sunday.

"With all due respect, Mr. President, we were caught unprepared by the announcement. It would matter greatly to our sense of constitutional order, if we were given the chance to administer the appropriate preventive measures without the complications of a premature public announcement," Sereno said in a letter addressed to Duterte.

Duterte named eight judges whom he said were involved in the illegal drug trade.

LIST: Public officials Duterte said are involved in illegal drugs

Sereno, however, gave some observations on seven of the judges that the president mentioned.

The chief justice clarified that Lorenda Mupas was dismissed in 2007 as Metropolitan Trial Court Judge of Dasmarinas, Cavite for gross ignorance of the law and misconduct. Former Calbayog City, Samar Regional Trial Court Judge Roberto Navidad, on the other hand, was killed in 2008 and former Judge Rene Gonzales of Iloilo City retired on June 20.

Judges Exequil Dagala of Dapa-Socorro, Surigao, Adriano Savillo of Iloilo City and Domingo Casiple of Kalibo, Aklan do not handle drug cases.

Judge Antonio Reyes of Baguio City, meanwhile, presides over a designated drugs court in a multi-sala court, Sereno said.

The chief justice added that the Supreme Court is investigating a report on a judge who may also be involved in illegal drug trade but who was not included in Duterte's list.

Supreme Court asks for basis of list

"The Court would consider it important to know the source and basis of any allegation that specific judges are involved in the illegal drugs trade in line with its duty to exercise administrative supervision over all lower courts," Sereno said.

The high court has asked the Philippine National Police to allow the judges included in Duterte's drugs watch list to carry firearms as they may become vulnerable targets for persons who may consider them collateral damage in the war against drugs.

Sereno requested that the judges named be allowed to carry licensed self-defense weapons until a proper investigation and formal criminal charges have been filed against them.

"To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against 'surrendering' or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant of arrest that is pending," Sereno said.

The chief justice assured the president that the judiciary shares with him the common desire to rid the country of drugs.

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