A feisty but visibly irked President of the Philippines (POTP) Rodrigo Duterte has remained defiant amid the pronouncement made by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the inclusion of some judges in the list of persons allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade in the country, during his speech in Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday afternoon.
Duterte was in the city on a visit of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division troops, including those who were injured and killed during encounters with the New People’s Army (NPA) recently.
The POTP was reacting to Sereno’s statement that law enforcers must first secure a warrant of arrest before a judge could make themselves “physically accountable to any police officer” as she warned of a constitutional crisis.
Last Sunday, the President Durete announced the names of seven judges, among others, whom he said have been connected to illegal drugs.
These are Judge Mupas of Dasmarinas City, Cavite; Judge Reyes of Baguio City; Judge Savilo of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 30, Iloilo City; Judge Casiple of Kalibo, Aklan; Judge Rene Gonzales of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC); Judge Navidad of RTC Calbayog City; and Judge Exequill Dagala of MTC, Dapa, Siargao.
Sereno, in her letter to the President dated August 8, 2016, said Judge Lorenda Mupas was dismissed in 2007 for gross ignorance of the law or misconduct, thus, is not part of the judiciary anymore.
Judge Roberto Navidad was killed on January 14, 2008; Judge Rene Gonzales of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branch 7, Iloilo City compulsory retired on June 20, 2016; Judge Dagala of Dapa-Socorro, Surigao has no jurisdiction over drug cases similar to Judge Gonzales.
Judge Adriano Savillo of of RTC Branch 30, Iloilo City is a family court judge and has no jurisdiction over drugs cases except when it involves a respondent is a minor; Judge Domingo Casiple of RTC Branch 7, Kalibo, Aklan is a general jurisdiction court judge who does not have jurisdiction over drug cases; and Judge Antonio Reyes of RTC, Branch 61, Baguio City, Benguet presides over the designated drugs court of the multi-sala court.
She even disclosed that SC is now investigating a report about a certain judge “who may be so involved” in the illegal drugs trade but is not among those announced by the President.
Sereno pointed out that “a premature announcement of an informal investigation on allegations of involvement with the drug trade will have the unwarranted effect of rendering the judge veritably useless in discharging his adjudicative role.”
Sereno said the Supreme Courts wants to know the source and basis of information about the President’s announcements since the agency is one with the Duterte administration’s goal to address illegal drugs.
“Do not create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you,” Duterte said as a warning to the head of the judiciary branch.“You order me? I will not follow you,” he said, referring to Sereno.
But Duterte has clarified that he did not order the police to arrest those judges on the list, but for the magistrates to show up at the Supreme Court, just as he enjoined police officers allegedly involved to report to PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
“What did I say? Judges [who are on the list] should report to the Supreme Court. I did not order them to be arrested,” he said, adding “I never accused anybody except to read their names.”
The POTP said what he did when he read out the names of judges, police officers and local government officials who have connections with the illegal drug trade was “not an accusatorial utterance, but rather it was in consonance with my duty as the President of the Philippines…”
He said securing a warrant of arrest to every Filipino involved in illegal drugs would take time while crimes are being committed in the streets. (With PNA reports from Joann Santiago and Jigger J. Jerusalem)