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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.

 

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Disturb the wrong doers

Much of the energy and drive I have for exposing corruption and filing cases against those involved come from the sermons I hear from Sunday masses.

Last Sunday, we heard mass at the St. Clement’s Church in Lapaz presided over by Fr. Bing Simacio and I particularly found strength in his sermon on the Gospel from Luke 12:49-53. He spoke about the seeming contradiction between the statements of Jesus Christ about peace. In the Gospel, Jesus said: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Fr. Simacio put this in the context of what is happening in our society nowadays, especially with the problem on corruption and illegal drugs. Peace is not about avoiding conflict when it means just keeping quiet about the wrongs that happen around us. We can only achieve genuine peace with God if we give testimony to His Words. We lose that opportunity when we “preserve peace” by just letting wrongs go unchallenged.

“Disturb the wrongdoers,” Fr. Simacio said. We fulfill God’s mission for us by helping expose the corrupt and confront them about what they are doing.

Those words gave them another dose of strength and energy. I came from Church with renewed sense of purpose and felt reinforced. This is the same feeling I always get when I listen to the sermons of Fr. Boboy Palencia at the Sto. Niño Sur Mission Chapel at SM Delgado.

Political agenda

Over the weekend, Rommel Ynion published several posts on Facebook outlining his views on what ails Filipino society in general, and Iloilo City in particular. One interesting post dwelt on corruption: Ynion said we should stop complaining about how corrupt our officials are, because there can be no corruption if the people don’t allow it. We deserve the kind of government we have, that’s essentially what Ynion was telling us.

Screenshot 2015-12-28 09.51.26I gave my own observations in reaction to the post. And there followed quite a long thread on our respective viewpoints. There are general agreement that voters are responsible for the kind of government we have. But I argued that voters as we know them now are incapable of making judgments that would lead to choosing leaders who truly look after their interests. Ignorance, brought about by poverty and poor basic services of government, is the culprit.

What struck me as significant is that politics in the Philippine setting has lost its brains. Just take a look at the television and radio commercials being aired — the treatment of vital issues affecting society is skin-deep. Nothing of substance can really be discerned. And the posts made by Ynion could initiate a move in the right direction.

It’s time the electorate demand to read and hear the views of candidates for the May 9, 2015 elections on the burning issues. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, it’s possible for candidates to conduct virtual town hall meetings in which ordinary citizens can engage them with spontaneous questions and listen to their viewpoints.

We have reached a point when Facebook and Twitter has become accessible for ordinary Filipinos. Smart and Globe provide free access to their subscribers. Now, any Filipino citizen with a mobile phone can make his voice heard to their political leaders. Genuine leadership  makes it imperative for politicians to rise to the challenge.

So far, in Iloilo City, only Ynion has shown that he possesses the intellectual readiness with his views on issues. If he keeps up with similar posts, he should be able to articulate a well-crafted political agenda that every Ilonggo can ultimately claim as his or her own. That’s because as the discussions get deeper, Ynion will get to understand how people feel and know what their aspirations are.

Ynion might be running for a City Council seat this time, but it doesn’t stop him from assuming a position of leadership in Iloilo City. He can serve as a guiding beacon that would slowly, but surely, illuminate the minds of fellow Ilonggos and make them realize it’s in their power to achieve the changes in their lives.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a charismatic and determined leadership to make it happen. I strongly believe Facebook and other social media are giving us the singular opportunity to achieve that goal.

The voice of hope

I must confess I was surprised at the images posted on Facebook these last few weeks showing Rommel Ynion doing house-to-house campaigning for his bid for a city council seat in Iloilo City as an independent.

I told myself, “This isn’t the same Rommel Ynion I knew in 2012, the guy who disdained having to wake up early to head out for the trenches, so to speak, and touch flesh with the people.”

Back then, the campaign staff literally had to haul Ynion from his bedroom to get him on the road to shake hands with people and convince them he was the better candidate for City Mayor after the 45-day campaign period had started.

Hardly a day had passed these last few weeks without seeing Ynion, trailed by an army of youth volunteers and women leaders in the barangays, doing house-to-house campaigning.

The intensity of his campaign showed Ynion is a different man than the mayoralty candidate I helped campaign for three years ago. Determination is written all over his face as he ignored the searing hot sun to meet constituents.

Nothing can stop us

“Nothing can stop us now.”

But nothing prepared me for the images that were splashed all over Facebook last week: Ynion campaigned even when a downpour kept everybody else indoors. That he was drenched from head to toe didn’t slow him down.

“I am doing this campaign as if my life depended on it,” Ynion told me over the phone a few days ago. He learned from his mistakes in the 2013 elections. He’s not about to commit the same mistakes all over again.

I haven’t had the opportunity to join Ynion in these house-to-house sorties, but with the help of Facebook, I have been able to track almost his every activity.

And the one thing that struck me in looking at the pictures is the delight that brightened the people’s faces when they shook hands with Ynion.

To his own surprise, many people he met on the dirt paths and bamboo-slat footbridges that he had to traverse to get to the innermost parts of the city — where the poorest of the poor lived — profusely thanked him for the help he had extended to them.

“I don’t remember having met you before, nor having done anything to help you,” he said time and again to these constituents. Then the people showed him the nebulizers that he had distributed three years ago, the DVD players and even toilet bowls in their shanties. Unknown to him, the Ynion name became a permanent fixture in their homes. His nebulizers even saved lives, he was told.

Salamat Rommel

Everywhere Ynion goes, there is always a heart warming scene of people thanking him for help he can’t even remember having made.

As a veteran political strategist, I had always counseled Ynion to devote more effort at house-to-house campaigning. I told him the people wanted to see him, touch him, and convey their gratitude to him in person. This is the greatest lesson I got from my former boss, the late Governor Niel Tupas Sr. I was extremely happy to see he heeded my advice.

The positive response to Ynion’s person-to-person campaigning has drawn a great amount of excitement among the people. All of a sudden, surveys conducted by RMN 774 showed Ynion in the top 6 among the prospective 12 winners in the elections. It is clear his name, and his message of hope (“paglaum”), are reaching the deepest recesses of the city.

There is reason for me to believe he might land on the number one slot.

With his down-to-earth style of relating with people, Ynion evoked memories of the late Evelio Javier when he was a young candidate for Governor of Antique back in the 70s running against the established political dynasties in his province.

One image that stuck to my mind about the Evelio Javier political campaign was his ability to draw children to accompany him in his sorties. The kids carried coconut palm branches as if these were rifles, and they were his praetorian guard to protect him. Antique was then known for private armies and the use of violence during elections. The children volunteered to be his bodyguards.

This time, Ynion is accompanied by youth volunteers, young adults who want to do their share in bringing change to a city constantly rocked by scandals of corruption, illegal drugs and murders in broad daylight (and some at night).

“My campaign has taken on a paradigm shift,” Ynion told me. “In the past, campaigns were always run by the older members of the community, and I fell into that tradition in the 2013 elections. Now I have involved the youth.”

Young kids pose with their idol

This campaign is dedicated to the next generation of Ilonggos – Ynion

Youth never fails to punctuate the message of hope. Ynion’s volunteers are aged between 18 to 25. Their sector constitutes the broadest segment of voters. And they are the most driven to campaign hard.

“I am truly amazed at the energy and devotion shown by my volunteers,” Ynion said, his eyes moistening as pride and gratitude swelled inside him.

During the first salvo for his campaign, the Ynion volunteers literally stormed the city’s barangays, leaping from one area to another to put up the orange-colored tarps showing his image with a simple caption: “Tingog sang Paglaum”.

And even when they ran into a wall of harassment by barangay leaders who wanted to lick the behinds of the incumbent officials — with their tarps torn down almost as soon as these were tacked on house walls and lamp posts — the kids refused to surrender. They simply came back with more tarps. For them, no intimidation, and threats of violence, could stop this orange wave from spreading and engulfing Iloilo City.

Tarps on parade cropped

The orange tide is spreading rapidly.

Ynion has taken a break from his campaign activities for the Christmas holidays. “For the next two weeks, I will spend every waking minute with them and shower them with hugs and kisses,” he said. He wants to “deposit” large amounts of love and care to his two children that should last them until election day. “After New Year, I will be back on the campaign trail and finish what I had set out to do,” he added.

Elections are still a good five months away. But this early, it is safe to bet that Ynion will secure a seat for himself in the City Council and become a voice for hope for the people.

Judge habeas corpus

(Coffeebreak, December 11, 2015)

It was a story that I had hoped would be a journalistic scoop: the story about how Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. had won his freedom from prison despite a life sentence meted upon him upon conviction for selling an estimated 50 grams of shabu sometime in March 1989 in Barangay Tanza Esperanza in Iloilo City.

For more than two weeks since that attempt by Odicta and his group to break into the premises of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo at 12:50 a.m. on November 19, 2015, the entire legal and media community were at a loss to know how Odicta could have gotten out of jail after serving only six years at the Sablayan Penal Colony in Mindoro Occidental.

There was, as far as everybody interested in the case could establish, no pardon or parole granted to Odicta by the Office of the President. He just seemed to have walked out of prison with the gates thrown wide open for him, with no obstacles thrown his way.

But Odicta was no Houdini. He couldn’t have just unchained himself from incarceration. I knew there had to be a document somewhere that would unlock the mystery.

True enough, a source handed over to me a sheaf of old documents that included an Order from the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 276 granting the petition of Odicta, along with 49 other prisoners, for writs of habeas corpus filed sometime in March 1995.

The petitioners were mostly convicted for violation of R.A. 6425.

What made the petitions highly questionable was the fact that these were filed by batches of 20 or 30 prisoners, and not individual cases as procedure would dictate. These were lumped in two special proceedings, and disposed by Judge Norma C. Perello, then the Executive Judge, in one sweeping order granting the petitions.

Odicta’s petition was anchored on the revised schedule of penalties for R.A. 6425. Under the old law, the penalty of selling prohibited drugs, including marijuana, was life imprisonment. Odicta was meted the life sentence for selling 50 grams of marijuana to undercover narcotics agents of the defunct PC/INP.

R.A. 7659 which was enacted in 1994 lowered the penalty for selling marijuana below 750 grams . The penalty for Odicta’s case was to be lowered to prision correccional, with a maximum imprisonment of six years.

As he had serving time for more than six years at the time, Odicta argued that there was no more reason for him to spend more time in prison. He asked the Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 276 to order his release from prison.

Judge Perello issued a blanket order on May 4, 1995 issuing a writ of habeas corpus and directing the Director of the National Bilibid Prisons to release Odicta and his co-petitioners without delay.

Until Odicta’s lawyer, Atty. Raymund Fortun, showed copies of these documents before the media on Wednesday afternoon after filing a complaint for libel against Aksyon Radyo Iloilo anchormen and management, nobody had known about their existence.

Only I had a set of these documents. I received them one week ago. It was only because I needed to verify their authenticity, and do more research about the circumstances behind the grant of the writ of habeas corpus, that my story that came out in The Daily Guardian yesterday was delayed.

But the story didn’t end there.

There is a deeper mystery, and possibly ground for a revocation of the release order, that our investigation uncovered.

Judge Perello, as it turned out, was not exactly the kind of magistrate who dispensed justice without fear or favor.

Based on decisions of the Supreme Court, Judge Perello had in fact been found guilty of “gross ignorance of the law” in two administrative proceedings filed against her. In the first case, she was suspended for six months without pay as penalty. In the second case, she was fined P40,000.

The investigation conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) showed that Judge Perello carried a heavy load of habeas corpus case while she was Executive Judge of the Muntinlupa City RTC.

And the Supreme Court auditors discovered evidence of highly irregular disposition of these habeas corpus case covering the period 1998-2004. Among the anomalous practices was that Judge Perello didn’t even have copies of the convictions of prisoners who filed the petitions before her. In a few cases, entire folders were missing.

This can only lead to one conclusion: that Judge Perello had ran a racket selling writs of habeas corpus to prisoners in a hurry to get out of prison. As the Supreme Court established, she released prisoners who had not even served the full term of their sentences. No judge in his or her right mind would do that.

Now that there is an inordinate interest in his case, Odicta can expect that authorities will seek a reversal of that habeas corpus writ issued under highly anomalous circumstances.

The judge who issued the release order already has a track record of irregular official acts that were made ground to find her guilty of gross ignorance of the law.

Odicta should now brace himself for a legal storm that might sweep him back to jail. Judge Habeas Corpus, which is perhaps the proper title for Judge Perello, won’t be there to hand him his freedom on a silver platter, not anymore.

Drilon doesn’t want probe on radio station assault

Panay News Drilon No Probe

Overcoming our fear of rejection to save our nation

I listened to a podcast this afternoon that featured ‪#‎jiajiang‬ and his overcoming fear of rejection advocacy.
So many of us are straitjacketed by this fear of rejection. We don’t even want to take the first step of what we want to do because we are afraid of failure.
But Jia Jiang has turned his lessons from his life’s failures into a profitable enterprise, and for good reason. Many people want to find out how they could hurdle this biggest obstacle to their personal success.
I must say that this conquest of the fear of rejection is what has made me keep doing this fight against corruption.
For me, I cannot fail. And if I do fail, it’s not because I didn’t try hard enough. I know that it’s a life mission given to me by God.
As Jia Jiang pointed out, all of us have dreams about what we could be, or what we could do, in this world.
And most people focus their attention on making money. Almost as soon as they make their fortune, they realize their lives are empty. There’s something missing. They feel they haven’t done what they are set out to do.
It doesn’t take too long to figure out that it’s about serving other people. All of us want to serve our community, our nation, and God, in one way or another. That is what gives us the ultimate satisfaction.
But then, most of us are held back by a fear of rejection.
In the political stage, for instance, many good-intentioned men and women shy away from active engagement because they are afraid. For them, winning is everything, and anything that does not promise victory is anathema to them.
This is precisely the reason why our nation is stuck in rotten straits. The good have abdicated the role to govern this nation to the bad. We are in acute shortage of heroes, men and women who will risk everything to stop evil from winning the battle over the fate of our people.
Unless these men and women overcome this fear of rejection, corruption will continue to reign in our country. We need courageous men and women in these times of darkness.