SC starts probe of judges in Rody drug list

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – They need not surrender without a warrant for their arrest, but four active judges linked by President Duterte to the illegal drug trade now face investigation by the Supreme Court (SC).

The SC acted on Duterte’s public naming of the judges, which Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said was “premature” and would have “unwarranted effect” on their safety and duties in the judiciary.

The justices decided in session to initiate a fact-finding investigation on the four judges and treat the announcement of the President as a complaint against them, SC spokesman Theodore Te said in a press conference.

To formalize the probe, the high tribunal directed the Palace through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to submit formal complaint-affidavits against the four judges within seven days.

The four judges – Exequil Dagala of the Dapa-Socorro, Surigao municipal trial court; Adriano Savillo, Iloilo City Regional Trial Court; Domingo Casiple of Kalibo, Aklan RTC; and Antonio Reyes of Baguio City, Benguet RTC – will then be required to submit their answers within seven days from receipt of notice.

Te also revealed the designation of retired SC Associate Justice Roberto Abad as investigator who would conduct the probe in 30 days from submission of the answers from the four judges.

He explained the complaint would undergo “standard investigation,” but clarified hearings would not be open to the public in accordance with the confidentiality rule for administrative cases filed with the SC.

He further stressed the proceedings in the SC would be administrative in nature – not criminal.

“If there is a basis for criminal action, a separate tribunal will handle that,” Te pointed out. Criminal charges could be filed against erring judges before the prosecutor’s office.

The SC initiated the probe even after Chief Justice Sereno advised the four judges not to surrender to police without existing warrant of arrest against them.

An insider bared it was Sereno who had strongly pushed for an investigation into the judges’ alleged drug links during the SC regular session.

“The Chief Justice really wanted an investigation, consistent with her stance that the Court must deal with offenders in the judiciary firmly but fairly,” the member of the Court revealed to The STAR.

The President named last Sunday seven judges allegedly involved in narcotics trade, but three of them are no longer with the judiciary.

Judge Roberto Navidad of the Calbayog City, Samar RTC was killed on Jan. 14, 2008 at age 69, while Judge Lorenda Mupas of Dasmariñas, Cavite MTC was dismissed in 2007 for gross ignorance of the law.

On the other hand, Judge Rene Gonzales of Iloilo City municipal trial court retired last June and did not handle drug cases.  

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon is urging the Duterte administration to come up with long-term solutions to solve criminality and bring back the people’s trust in the justice system.

“The challenge to all of us is to come up with  complete and significant reforms in our justice system, so that the government does not have to resort to a ‘shame campaign’ strategy in an effort to solve criminality,” Drilon said. He stressed a “shame campaign” would not put criminals behind bars.

Drilon earlier defended one of his allies, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog, who was among those named by Duterte as protectors of drug syndicates. He also decried Duterte’s labeling Iloilo as the most “shabulized” province in the country. Iloilo is Drilon’s home province.

“The effective deterrent against the commission of crimes is the certainty of punishment and expeditiousness of the proceedings,” he said.

Drilon also said he was appalled by the lack of public indignation over the spate of killings of alleged drug suspects.

But he said he could understand that such was “a manifestation of public’s frustration brought about by inefficiency in the country’s justice system.”

“There is a failure of the justice system. Our people are upset because of the inability of our justice system to address criminality and punish the criminals with dispatch,” Drilon maintained. - With Paolo Romero

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