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Drilon was the protector of drug lords in Iloilo

Until now, President Duterte hasn’t fathomed the real picture of illegal drugs in Iloilo City. He has blamed dismissed City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog for the rise of drug lords and their grip on the local community before he came to power. But the truth is that Mabilog was only a pawn. He was never the political boss of Iloilo City. He took orders from Senator Franklin Drilon.

But isn’t it strange that despite the massive reportage and media commentaries on the illegal drugs problem in Iloilo City, Drilon never ever said anything about it? He reads my every blog and Facebook post, and there is no denying he knew about how bad the illegal drugs problem had grown during the years 2010-2016. In fact, I sent him an email sometime in 2012 beseeching him to do something about it. And when the late Melvin “Boyet” Odicta tried to storm into the premises of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo on November 19,2015, Drilon squelched the calls for a Senate investigation into the incident, saying it was a minor police matter.

Drilon was not just the political kingpin of Iloilo at the time. All the national government agencies, including the PNP, PDEA and NBI, bowed before him like a demi-god. Only those who received his blessings were given assignments as Regional Directors in Western Visayas, which has Iloilo City as the regional center. Despite such power that he wielded, Drilon never issued orders for the police to crack down on the drug syndicates. What he did was show a fondness for Barangay Monica-Blumentritt Punong Barangay Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, a top lieutenant of the Odicta syndicate.

Kap dabing with drilon

VIP treatment palagi si Kap Dabing Espinosa na asawa ni Jing Jing Espinosa sa mga okasyon ni Drilon.

Drilon with Kap Dabing

And he was always quick to downplay the magnitude of the problem. Not once had he chastised Mabilog, his cousin and protege, about the growth of the syndicates. In short, it was Drilon who gave protection to the syndicates. And it’s time President Duterte took him to task for this crime against the nation.

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Iloilo’s tres Marias

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to disclose to the public the names of 211 barangay captains who are allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade. I’m wondering if the three barangay captains in Iloilo City — all women — whose names have been linked to illegal drugs are included in the list. They are Keith “Dabing” Espinosa of Barangay Monica-Blumentritt, Remia Prevendido-Gregori of Barangay Bakhaw, and Noemi Hablo of Barangay Desamparados.

Espinosa is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, who is now serving a prison sentence for the shooting and wounding of an unarmed individual in his barangay more than a decade ago. Jing Jing was reputed to be a right hand man of the slain drug group leader Melvin “Boyet” Odicta, also known in Iloilo as “Dragon”.

Gregori is the sister of another drug group leader, Richard Prevendido, who was also killed in a police raid on Sept. 1, 2017. Her son, Bonifacio Gregori, is now in jail facing drugs charges. Her barangay is notorious as a lair for illegal drugs distribution.

Hablo’s deceased husband, Rusty, was a suspected drug peddler. He fled to Mindanao at the height of the tokhang operations of the police. But he was apprehended there in Mindanao; while in prison, he suffered from a nervous breakdown, and was reported to have committed suicide.

Supreme Court rules: De Lima’s arrest legal

The issue of legality over the arrest of former DOJ Secretary and Senator Leila de Lima has finally been settled by the Supreme Court when it dismissed her motion for reconsideration last Tuesday, April 17, 2018. It means De Lima can no longer play the card of being a victim of persecution (the way she abused her own power when she was DOJ Secretary). She will now have to face the charges against her in a full-blown trial.

Leila de Lima

Photo credit: Jansen Romero/Manila Bulletin

Indeed, even just the frequent visits of De Lima to the National Bilibid Prisons where she partied with convicted drug lords should have been enough to jail her. There was no justification for such closeness with hardened criminals. It lends credence to the allegations that she collected money from the drug lords, thereby making her a party to the illegal drugs trade.

I am appalled the Liberal Party politicians found nothing wrong with such behavior. Well, I guess rubbing elbows with criminals was the norm during their stay in power. The Supreme Court ruling makes De Lima no different from other arrested individuals facing trial, and it’s time the trial courts order her transfer to an ordinary jail.

We must keep in mind that the charges filed against De Lima aren’t political in nature. These involve illegal drugs. She must be incarcerated in the Muntinlupa City jail where other persons facing the same cases are detained. It’s time she doesn’t get special treatment.

 

Questions raised on ‘delay’ in prison sentence execution vs Jing Jing Espinosa

A prominent lawyer in Iloilo City has expressed surprise, and disbelief, that a prison sentence imposed on Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. was not immediately carried out after the Regional Trial Court Branch 31 received a Resolution from the Supreme Court upholding his conviction for frustrated murder four years ago.

Atty. Eldrid Antiquera, a former Iloilo City Councilor and legal assistant of the late Raul M. Gonzalez when he served as Justice Secretary, told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo that the circumstances that caused the delayed execution of the jail sentence should be investigated to make sure there was no hanky-panky.

“The Supreme Court takes these things seriously, because such negligence can thwart the course of justice,” Antiquera said. In many cases, court officials found to have been remiss in their duties have been suspended for similar omissions, he added.

Rosenia Jover, OIC Clerk of Court of Branch 31, issued a notice of hearing to both the prosecution and the defense lawyer, as well as the bail bond companies, on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, to tackle the revocation of the P200,000 bail bond for Espinosa.

Another court official told me that the revocation of the bail bond is the first step toward the issuance of a warrant of arrest to put Espinosa behind bars and begin serving his prison sentence.

notice-of-hearing

NOTICE OF HEARING ON THE REVOCATION OF BAIL BOND SET FOR OCT. 4, 2016. (Photo credit: RMN 774)

Espinosa, also known as “Bondying” in the order of battle of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), was found guilty as an accomplice for frustrated murder when he and two others shot and wounded Mark Serra in Barangay Monica on November 24, 2002.

Espinosa was able to submit a paraffin test report showing that he was negative for nitrate powder burns during his trial and was meted out a lighter sentence of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day as prision mayor as maximum.

He was convicted way back in 2006 by then RTC Branch 31 judge Rene Hortillo.

Espinosa appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals. In a decision handed down on July 14, 2008, the Court of Appeals Eighteenth Division upheld the trial court’s ruling.

The case was elevated to the Supreme Court on a petition for review on certiorari. But the Supreme Court, in a Resolution dated May 30, 2011, denied the appeal for failure of petitioner Espinosa to substantially show any reversible error in the C.A. decision. The decision was declared “final and executory” by the Supreme Court on October 24, 2011.

Following judicial procedure, the case records were remanded to the Court of Appeals which in turn sent back the files to the lower court, Branch 31.

The markings on the documents show that RTC Branch 31 received the by registered mail on September 7, 2012. At the time, RTC Branch 31, along with all other courts of the RTC and Iloilo City MTC, were housed at the De Paul College campus in Jaro district as the Hall of Justice was undergoing refurbishing and repair.

The records affirming the conviction virtually vanished then, and it was only last July this year, during the conduct of an inventory of cases, that the same was noticed. Or so OIC Clerk of Court Rosenia Jover said.

For Antiquera, that explanation should not be accepted “hook, line and sinker.”

This discovery was made public only last Monday in The Daily Guardian and this blog, along with interviews with Aksyon Radyo Iloilo anchorman John Paul Tia and RMN 774 anchors Novie Guazo and Regan Arlos.

Indeed, the excuse is too shallow to be accepted. Almost every year, trial courts are mandated by the Supreme Court to conduct inventories of cases. This means RTC Branch 31 should have discovered this oversight in 2013 or 2014.

But why did it take four years?

drilon-with-kap-dabing

Monica barangay captain Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, poses with the most powerful man in Iloilo City — Senator Franklin Drilon.

There are speculations that somebody powerful may have intervened to “bury” the case records, and it was only after President Rodrigo Duterte came to power that it was resurrected.

Kap dabing with drilon

VIP treatment palagi si Kap Dabing Espinosa na asawa ni Jing Jing Espinosa sa mga okasyon ni Drilon.

 

Jing Jing Espinosa faces ‘delayed’ prison sentence

 

A conviction for frustrated murder on Monica barangay kagawad Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. had long been affirmed by both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but because of the topsy-turvy files at the temporary quarters of Regional Trial Court Branch 31 in September 2012 at the De Paul College campus, the case records were buried out of sight.

And it was only during an inventory of cases conducted by RTC Branch 31 that court personnel discovered the case folders remanded by the Court of Appeals for implementation of the decision handed down by then RTC Branch 31 presiding judge Rene Hortillo imposing a prison term for Espinosa.jing jing gets ready to rule iloilo city

“By the time we found the case folders containing the decision of the Court of Appeals and order from the Supreme Court affirming the conviction, Judge Hortillo had already retired, and we could not proceed with the case,” a court official told The Daily Guardian over the weekend.

The official said it was only recently that RTC Branch 34 Presiding Judge Yolanda Panaguiton-Gavino was designated as acting Presiding Judge, and she is expected to report to her assigned sala in Branch 31 today, Monday, September 26, 2016.

“This case will be among the first to be taken up with Judge Gavino,” the official said.

She added that under court rules and procedures, Judge Gavino will issue a warrant of arrest against Espinosa and his companion, Robinito “Bord” Malaga, for them to be put to jail and serve the penalty for frustrated murder.

the-daily-guardian-front-page-sept-26-2016Espinosa and Malaga were found guilty for shooting and seriously wounding Mark Serra, a resident of Barangay Monica, at around midnight on November 24, 2002. A third accused, Cris Rudy Balidiong, died during the pendency of the case.

Espinosa was meted a prison term of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day of prison mayor as maximum. Malaga was sentenced to a more severe prison term of eight years and one day of prision mayor as minimum to 14 years, 8 months and one day of reclusion temporal as maximum.

Case records show that Serra was walking towards home from a dance hall in Barangay Concepcion that night when he passed by a foot walk where he saw Balidiong, Espinosa and Malaga standing on both sides.

Just as Serra passed by the three, Balidiong just shot him without provocation.

Although wounded, Serra was able to run away, during which time he saw Espinosa and Malaga emerging from the shadows with hand guns and firing at him but missed.

Both Espinosa and Malaga gave chase, their guns firing. Serra was hit on the left shoulder and right side of his back, court records show.

It was only when Serra reached the house of his first cousin that his attackers fled.

Serra was rushed to the Iloilo Mission Hospital where he had to undergo an operation to save his life.

In convicting Espinosa and Malaga, then RTC Branch 31 Presiding Judge Hortillo said there was no way Serra could not have identified his attackers, as he lived in the barangay, and the area where the attack took place was lighted.

In his decision dated June 20, 2005, Hortillo swept aside the defense of denial put up by the accused and pronounced them guilty of frustrated murder.

However, Espinosa filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that the trial court failed to give weight to the PNP Crime Laboratory report showing that he was negative for powder burns.

In an amended order, Hortillo reduced the penalty for Espinosa as an accomplice in the crime.

Espinosa filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals which upheld the ruling of Hortillo on July 14, 2008. He then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court denied the appeal on May 30, 2011. An entry of judgment declaring the decision final and executory was made on October 24, 2011.

The markings on the case records show that these were sent by registered mail by the Court of Appeals on August 23, 2012 to RTC Branch 31 which had by then moved to its temporary sala at the De Paul College campus.

The Department of Public Works and Highways declared the Hall of Justice unsafe for occupancy and undertook refurbishing works to improve the structural integrity of the building.

The case records were marked “Received” by RTC Branch 31 on September 7, 2012.

The records also indicate that Espinosa’s counsel at the time, the late Atty. Felipe Macahilig, received a copy of the decisions at around the same time.

But the chaotic condition of the files at the temporary Hall of Justice led to the misplacement of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court records.

During the whole month of July this year, RTC Branch 31 personnel conducted an inventory of cases along with the rest of the judiciary and it was only then that the oversight on the enforcement of the decision was discovered.

All the courts and other agencies that held office at the Hall of Justice were ordered to evacuate from the Hall of Justice on February 25, 2012 after a strong earthquake caused cracks on its walls and floors.

This is the second prison sentence to be imposed on Espinosa.

In 1995, he was also convicted for the murder of a deaf-mute in Barangay Monica. He was sentence to serve an indeterminate sentence of 10 years and one day as minimum to 17 years and four months as maximum.

He was released from the Bilibid prison after serving the minimum prison sentence.

 

 

Odicta’s release illegal?

The release of Melvin Odicta Sr. from the National Bilibid Prisons in 1995 continues to be a burning issue among lawyers.
A few night ago, a municipal trial court judge and two lawyers told me the Muntinlupa City RTC executive judge who issued the release order by virtue of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus did so without legal basis.
“If it was an application of the indeterminate sentence law under the new law amending the prison sentences for illegal drugs, then there should have been an application with the Parole and Pardon Board,” the judge said.
It was purely an executive function which needed approval of the President of the Republic, the two lawyers added.
Besides, the three of them echoed my earlier observation — based on Supreme Court decisions — that a petition for habeas corpus is not a proper remedy for convicted felons.
The release order was, in effect, an illegal act overturning the decision of an equal court which was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
It is turning out that Jun Alojado Capulot has succeeded in opening up a huge can of worms that could bring down an empire in Iloilo City.

More questions on Odicta habeas corpus

After I exposed the circumstances that surrounded the release of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. on June 7, 1995, particularly on the dubious legality of the writ of habeas corpus issued by Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 276 Judge Norma C. Perello, I was swamped with more leads that raise more questions about the whole affair.

Over coffee, I solicited the view of retired Guimaras RTC Judge Merlin Deloria on whether or not the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus was proper in basically shortening the prison sentence of Odicta, who was convicted for selling marijuana to undercover narcotics agents of the defunct PC/INP way back in March 1993 and sentence to life imprisonment.

At first, Judge Deloria was reluctant to give his opinion. He was totally in the dark about the case, he said. So I outlined to him the facts of the case from the conviction by the Iloilo RTC to the Supreme Court affirmation of the conviction and then the filing of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

After I had covered the breadth and length of the case in a span of 10 minutes, Judge Deloria asked me the question: “Where was he detained at the time he filed the petition for a writ of habeas corpus before the Muntinlupa RTC?”

Judge Deloria was once my professor in Taxation in law school, and I always admired his sharp analytical mind that made him one of the favorite professors in all the years he was teaching at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City.

At once, I saw his brilliant mind at work with that question.  The National Bilibid Prison was in Muntinlupa City, making the RTC Branch 276 a proper venue for the filing of such action. But I knew that Odicta wasn’t confined at the Bilibid prison. He was serving his sentence at the Sablayan Penal Colony in Mindoro Occidental.

Judge Deloria’s question tackled the issue of jurisdiction. If Odicta was confined in Mindoro Occidental, then the Muntinlupa RTC had no jurisdiction over him.

The doubtful legality of the writ of habeas corpus as legal basis for Odicta’s release from prison didn’t end there. Judge Deloria said he didn’t think the habeas corpus proceedings was sufficient to overturn the final conviction and sentence to life imprisonment based on R.A. 7659 that revised the schedule of penalties.

There should have been a separate petition for Odicta to avail of the shorter prison term under R.A. 7659, according to Judge Deloria.

With this development, the Aksyon Radyo Iloilo management is planning to file a petition before the Supreme Court seeking the nullification of the writ of habeas corpus. Odicta had filed a libel complaint against anchorman Jun Capulot, station manager and anchorman John Paul Tia and the chief executive officer of Manila Broadcasting Co.

This mulled petition to nullify the writ of habeas corpus may result in Odicta being sent back to prison and wait for a proper judicial order applying the shorter jail term in his favor.