If we don’t avenge the murder of Judge Rosales, then justice will go to hell in this land!
BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven () - June 16, 2004 - 12:00am
Let’s leave for the moment the pompous and portentous nonsense of the nitpicking "canvass" in Congress – with our politicians still debating and spouting platitudes for the benefit of TV mileage – and focus our attention on the harsh challenges and hard realities that threaten our society today.

No matter whose name finally pops up as winner in the final canvass, we’ve already elected a President. What we must know is whether we can defeat the crime and violence that threaten the everyday lives of Filipinos everywhere. That’s the real nitty-gritty.

Last Thursday, June 10, for example, a courageous judge – Executive Judge Voltaire Rosales, 48, of Tanauan, Batangas, was insolently shot to death by a motorcycle-riding assassin at almost high noon – just 100 meters away from the court room where he had just finished the cases of the day.

The unknown killer waited for the judge, who was driving his own car, to slow down at the hump, then opened fire. He shot Judge Butch Rosales in the arm, crippling him and causing him to slump forward, then shot again. This time the bullet pierced his victim’s neck veins, then another the judge’s head, just above the left ear. The assailant sped off, with a back-up vehicle tailing him (carrying no car plate) and remains at large.

Despite his fatal injuries, the stricken judge managed to open his car door and slumped to the ground. Police arrived minutes later and brought him to a nearby hospital. The hospital had no ambulance, and the municipality itself had only one (which was not available), so the judge’s wife, Atty. Nena Rosales, had to beg Batangas Governor Dodo Mandanas to help get an ambulance to transport the slain jurist’s body – and this was only managed three hours after his death.

The victim of this cold-blooded murder, Butch Rosales, was one of our country’s bravest and most accomplished judges. He had taken up grade school in Letran College, graduated from Bauan High School, gone to De La Salle University, and finally obtained his law degree from the Ateneo de Manila College of Law.

He passed the Bar in 1981 with distinction, placing No. 25 with an average of 84.5 percent. After law school, he had worked as an associate for the De Santos, Balgos and Perez Law Office, then with his father-in-law, former Assemblyman Rafael "Paeng" Legaspi (Batasang Pambansa from 1984-85) as supervising staff officer. He was legal counsel to the UNIDO Aklan Chapter, then a Solicitor in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) from 1986 to 1995. He was appointed Executive Judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 83, Tanauan, Batangas, in 1995. Now, he is dead.

Who had the motive to have him killed? There’s a short list for the police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to consider.

Our lawmen must track down this vicious murderer, his confederates, and the mastermind who dispatched that "killer team" – and nail their hides to the wall. Otherwise, the butchers and bullies will know they can "get away with murder" and everything else with impunity. Abolish the death penalty? The death penalty was created for and must be imposed on such rats!

Judge Butch had a passion for his work and had dedicated his life to dispensing justice evenly and fairly for all. As a "heinous crime" judge, he heard cases involving rapists, drug dealers and manufacturers, and kidnap-for-ransom gangsters, aside from the regular load of RTC Judges such as theft, land-grabbing, and other civil cases. Rosales had the reputation of treating the rich, poor, the powerful and the powerless with equality and impartiality in his court. Efficient, hardworking and thoughtful in his deli-beration of cases, Rosales completed a record-breaking number of decisions per year.

As a heinous crime judge, Rosales handed out five death sentences in his short career, earning him the reputation of a tough "hukom bitay" judge (hanging Justice judge). The past and present cases he handled were, among others, (1) People of the Philippines versus German Agojo, who was sentenced to death for drug pushing; (2) Vs. Nestor Guelos et al. involving the slaying of Major Camacho, Chief of Police of Tanauan. Guelos was sentenced to 8 to 12 years imprisonment (3) vs. Millano Muji et al. (sentenced to death for kidnapping with homicide, robbery, and carnapping in the case concerning a son-in-law of business taipan John Gokongwei; (4) vs. Benito Simbahan involving illegal possession of prohibited drugs and two counts of murder; (5) vs. Romy Rose Agojo for violation of Section 2, Article 5, R.A. No. 9165, or drug pushing.

Who of those he had "angered" by dispensing justice had commanded Judge Rosales murdered?
* * *
What’s disgraceful, I think, is also the manner in this upright judge has been callously treated by his own Department of Justice (DOJ) after his assassination.

His body was brought to Funeraria Paz for the required autopsy conducted by the NBI. His sister-in-law, Dr. Carrie Legaspi, being a doctor, volunteered to be present at the autopsy.

The examination by the medico-legal physician was routinely conducted. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the DOJ "forgot" to send a flag – as a judge fallen in the service of his country deserves – to be draped on his coffin.

It took his sister-in-law, who’s also barangay captain of Dasmariñas Village (Makati), to bring a Philippine flag. When the judge’s widow, Nena, paid a call on the Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. early Monday morning or four days later, Dr. Legaspi candidly told the Chief Justice that he hadn’t even "given" Judge Rosales’ coffin a flag. Later in the day, the Chief Justice sent over a flag, and followed this up with a visit to the burol (wake) where he attended the Mass there, then promised to attend the burial Mass – which was yesterday.

The bereaved widow, Nena, a lawyer herself, says that Butch’s death "should be a wake-up call to our judiciary and our nation".

She complained about the current set-up. In the previous system, heinous crimes (she pointed out) were handled by all the judges, through what is known as the raffle system. Following "reforms", it was noted, there now seem to be specific courts wherein there is a family court and a heinous crime court, etc. Heinous crime courts handle civil cases on top of all the heinous crimes involving kidnappers, drug pushers, rapists, and murderers.

"The heinous crime judge then becomes the target of every evil element of our society, because they have the burden of giving judgement to the lawless elements who will kill anyone in their way!"

She noted that it’s been the practice for bodyguards to be requested by a threatened judge from the local mayor. However, the DOJ advised judges not to ask any "favors" from local mayors. "So the question is: Where do we stand? There is this vagueness or lack of clarity with regard to providing protection for judges who lay their lives on the line as they pass judgement on the lawless elements of society."

"In the previous system," Mrs. Nena Rosales recalled, "cases involving heinous crimes and other cases were brought to Manila for decision. This was changed to the concept of solving everything in the locality – to decongest court load, perhaps a good answer. But think of it: when a decision adversely made against one person versus another is made, somehow those in the locality react more personally. Therefore, each and every working hour, the judge is constantly in peril. There must be a better solution."
* * *
What I’d like to ask myself – and you must, too, is the burning question: Is the Philippines now the Colombia, or worse, the Sicily of Asia, where judges and prosecutors can be killed with immunity?

RTC Judge Voltaire "Butch" Rosales is the fourth RTC judge slain in the past three years!

Here’s the score:

In October 2001, Ilocos Norte RTC Judge Ariston Rubio was ambushed along the national highway in Batac. Six months after Judge Rubio, Compostela Valley RTC Judge Eugenio Valles was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding killers.

In September 2002, Tayug (Pangasinan) RTC Judge Oscar Uzon also met the same fate.

The murders of Judges Rubio, Valles and Uzon are unsolved up to now. Will the murder of Judge Rosales also be unsolved by the NBI and the PNP.

Though it is the unwritten law of vendetta that "omerta" or silence must rule in Sicily, that notorious Mafia-enclave, witnesses have still come forth and many killers and masterminds responsible for the assassination of judges and prosecutors have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted by courageous magistrates in Palermo.

In sad contrast with the murders of our judges remaining unsolved, several trial court judges (especially those presiding over heinous crimes-designated courts) may now fear for their lives. Among the cases pending before these heinous crimes courts are drug-related cases.

It is not only trial court judges who have been threatened.

Members of the Supreme Court have also been threatened by various means. One member of the High Court had his van and car "acid bombed". When acid was thrown at his car by a motorcycle-riding man, the justice was in the vehicle on his way home. The message delivered was clear. Those behind the acid-throwing were "announcing" they could get the justice anytime they want.

Another member of the Court was threatened by means of a funeral wreath delivered early in the morning at the gate of his house. The "message" to this justice was that he should rule favorably on a high-profile case assigned to him.

To their credit, the members of the High Court though threatened were not cowed. They resolved the cases assigned to them without fear, strictly in accordance with law.

Those behind the assassination of judges have taken the law into their own blood-stain hands. They have arrogated unto themselves the power to "discipline" members of the judiciary with the bullet.

We must get the killers of those four judges! But we must begin with bagging, and mercilessly meting out justice, to the murderers of Judge Butch Rosales.

This is imperative if we are to keep our society safe and sane!

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