CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has sent President Rodrigo Duterte a letter expressing deep concern over his list of trial court judges allegedly involved in drugs.
Sereno’s letter was personally received by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday morning.
It was a letter “articulating her concerns over the public declaration made by the President,” Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said.
Seven judges were in the list Duterte revealed during a speech at Camp Panacan in Davao City:
Judge Mupas, Dasmariñas, Cavite
Judge Reyes, Baguio City
Judge Savilo, RTC Branch 13, Iloilo City
Judge Casiple, Kalibo, Aklan
Judge Rene Gonzales, MTC (no location mentioned)
Judge Navidad, RTC Calbayog City
Judge Ezekiel (or Exequiel) Dagala, MTC Dapa, Surigao
The President said he would take responsibility for the list, adding it had been revalidated. A careful check, however, revealed that information has not been sufficiently verified.
Sereno disclosed in her letter to Duterte that:
Lorenda Mupas was dismissed in 2007 as MTC Judge of Dasmarinas, Cavite for gross ignorance of the law/misconduct. Sereno requested that her dishonorable discharge be duly considered and that she be not referred to as part of the judiciary as of nine years ago.
Judge Roberto Navidad, formerly of the RTC, Branch 32, Calbayog City, Samar was killed on 14 January 2008 at the age of 69.
Judge Rene Gonzales, formerly of the MTCC, Branch 7, Iloilo City, compulsorily retired last 20 June 2016.
Judge Exequiel Dagala of the MTC, Dapa-Socorro, Surigao, does not have jurisdiction over drugs cases, neither does Judge Gonzales. Sereno stressed that it would be very helpful if the investigators who included the names of Judges Dagala and Gonzales inform the Court how these MTC judges can be considered as influencing the drug trade.
Judge Adriano Savillo, RTC, Branch 30, Iloilo City is a family court judge who does not have jurisdiction over drugs cases except in cases where a minor is a respondent.
“Judge Domingo Casiple, RTC, Branch 7, Kalibo, Aklan is the judge of a court of general jurisdiction without jurisdiction over drugs cases, i.e., until our recent decision to make all RTCs as drugs courts is implemented with the appropriate administrative circular. It would be helpful to know the specifics on how judges without jurisdiction over drugs cases influence the drug trade in their localities,” Sereno said.
Judge Antonio Reyes, RTC, Branch 61, Baguio City, Benguet presides over the designated drugs court in that multi-sala court.
The chief justice admitted that the SC is currently investigating one judge “who may be so involved” in drugs. Unfortunately, she told Duterte, “he is not on the above list.”
Dont surrender to PNP!
Sereno said she is cautioning the named judges against “surrendering” to authorities in the absence of any warrant of arrest 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.
She stressed that the SC alone has the right to discipline judges.
“As the sole entity charged with the discipline of judges, the Supreme Court decides when judges are excused from bench duty and report to it. We appreciate your zeal in helping us cleanse the ranks of the judiciary of misfits but we assure you, Mr. President, even an informal report from the President or his appropriate alter egos would be sufficient to spur us to action and conduct the investigation immediately without need of requiring them to report physically to any entity and cancel scheduled court activities.”