By: Elena Grace Flores
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has cautioned the judges included in the list of President Rodrigo Duterte as protector of the illegal drugs trade not to surrender to any law enforcer without a warrant of arrest.
In her letter to Duterte, she was asking for the source and basis of the allegation against the seven judges. She stated; “We abhor its ability to even destroy public institutions, thus our proactive investigation of any report that judges and court personnel abet drug trade,”. However, “a premature announcement of an informal investigation on allegation of involvement with the drug trade will have the unwarranted effect of rendering the judge veritably useless in discharging his adjudicative role.”
“Thus, this Court has been careful, all too aware that more often than not, a good reputation is the primary badge of credibility and the only legacy that many of our judges can leave behind,” she added.
“Our judges may have been rendered vulnerable and veritable targets for any of those persons and groups who may consider judges as acceptable collateral damage in the ‘war on drugs,’”; reiterated Sereno.
Sereno cannot be blamed on her actions because many judges have been assassinated since 1999, with most cases of whom was upon the alleged orders of crime lords. This is a very brave stunt from the Chief Justice which can only be dealt with by the toughness of the president’s tongue.
Sereno’s response to the list: Judge Lorenda Mupas was dismissed in 2007 as Municipal Trial Court Judge of Dasmariñas, Cavite for gross ignorance of the law. “We request that her dishonorable discharge be duly considered and that she be not referred to as part of the judiciary as of nine years ago,” Sereno said. Judge Roberto Navidad, formerly of the Calbayog City, Samar Regional Trial Court was killed on Jan. 14, 2008 at age 69. Judge Rene Gonzales, formerly of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 7, Iloilo City compulsorily retired last June 20, 2016.
Judge Exequil Dagala of the MTC, Dapa-Socorro, Surigao, does not have jurisdiction over drugs cases, the same way that Judge Gonzales does not. “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,” Sereno said. 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, that is, 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.
Despite being caught off guard, Chief Justice Sereno has acted according to the law, following due process. Can Duterte do the same?