Supreme Court of the Philippines (SCOTP)) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s announcement of an informal investigation on the alleged involvement of seven judges in the illegal drugs trade “was premature”.
”The SC would consider it important to know the source and basis of any allegation that specific judges are involved in the illegal drugs trade,” Sereno said in her four-page letter to President Duterte.
She expressed alarm over the announcement of the narco-judges, saying that judges are vulnerable to extra-judicial killings and this would have an impact on the performance of the judges’ “adjudicative role”.
Sereno emphasized the importance of the good reputation and credibility of judges.
She said they are expecting this to have an effect on the schedule of trials and conferences of the judges.
Admitting that the President’s announcement sprang a surprise on them, the Chief Justice said it would have been better if the High Court was given the opportunity to conduct preventive measures before the announcement was made.
Sereno also disclosed that the SC is investigating a judge who may be involved in the trade of illegal drugs but is not in the list of President Duterte.
President Duterte has earlier named Judge Lorinda Toledo-Mupas of Dasmarinas, Cavite; Judge Reyes of Baguio City; Judge Savilo of Iloilo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 13; Judge Casipli of Kalibo, Aklan Municipal Trial Court (MTC); Judge Rene Gonzales of Iloilo City Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC); Calbayog City, Samar RTC Judge Navidad; and Dapa, Siargao MTC Judge Ezekiel Dagala.
Of the seven judges, Mupas was dismissed in 2007, Navidad was shot to death in 2008, and Gonzales retired in January 2016.
Judge Roberto Navidad of Regional Trial Court 32 in Calbayog City of Samar province, identified by President Duterte as narco judge was killed by an assasin on January 15, 2008 while inside his car in Calbayog.
The Navidad murder is still a police cold case file as the killer remains unidentified and at large.
The relatives of the slain judge were shocked upon learning of President Duterte’s announcement.
Elias Navidad Acosta, the slain judge’s nephew now employed as court sheriff at the RTC-Branch 7 in Calbayog expressed exasperation and disbelief.
“He was my uncle. I know him from head to foot. He was not a drug protector. He was a drug eliminator or a drug buster. That is why he was shot dead by these syndicates,” Acosta said, as quoted by the report.
The slain judge was formerly at the helm of RTC-7 in Tacloban for 10 years, then RTC-32 in Calbayog for over five years prior to his assasination. He was the mayor of MacArthur town from 1972 to 1979.
The younger Navidad claimed his uncle was shot to death because the judge fought the drug lords in Calbayog.
The judge’s family have relocated to the US since.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday confirmed that four military personnel included in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s “narco list”, are no longer connected with the AFP.
Reports coming from different units indicate that Cpl. Alfrenz Gurias Abedin, Pfc. Dalimama Ipad, Pfc. Philip Miro and CAFGU (militiaman) Casimiro Castro have been discharged from the service for sometime now, AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said, noting that the exact date of their discharge still has to be ascertained.
The fourth, retired Brig. Gen. Leoncio Daniega, had already died on May 8, 2010.
Records from the AFP Pensions and Gratuity Management Center showed that Daniega retired from service in December 1994 and his last known address was in Caloocan City.
“On the other hand, we are still in the process of determining the whereabouts of SSg Vic Dela Cruz and Cpl. Cusinan Lopez. The AFP is checking with other units that may have SSg Dela Cruz and Lopez in their roster,” Arevalo said. (With reports from PNA)