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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.

 

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‘Very good’

The opposition has thrown about everything they have in their arsenal. but the net satisfaction rating of President Rodrigo Duterte has remained constant at “very good” in the 1st quarter 2018 poll survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The President’s gross satisfaction rating fell only 1% for the period with 70% of the 1,200 respondents nationwide giving him a “satisfied” rating while 14% said they were “dissatisfied”. This translated to a net 56% net satisfaction rating for this survey period, or 2% lower than his previous net satisfaction rating of 58% in December 2017.

This only establishes one thing: Filipinos approve of the way President Duterte is running the country. The issue of extra judicial killings that led the International Criminal Court to open an investigation in February this year clearly had no effect on the President’s popularity. It’s as if nothing could shake the people’s confidence in the man.

What does this imply?

For one thing, Filipinos want a tough leader to confront the illegal drugs problem. For many, the casualties in the drugs war are a necessary evil. The problem cannot be licked with the so-called rule of law, which is very weak in the first place, and drug syndicates have always managed to run circles around law enforcers with their money and influence, and well-paid lawyers. That’s not to mention rampant corruption in law enforcement, the national prosecution service and even the judiciary.

And, as we have seen, putting drug lords and pushers to jail is hardly making a dent on the problem. Even while in jail, drug lords continue with their business, running their operations with the use of cell phones smuggled inside jails. Sadly, nothing much has changed after President Duterte deployed the Special Action Force, the elite PNP unit, to guard the National Bilibid Prisons. The corruption is frustrating the efforts to stop illegal drugs.

In simple terms, the government is severely handicapped in this war against illegal drugs if it sticks to the rule-of-law approach. And Filipinos understand this. They realize violence is a necessary evil in fighting the illegal drugs syndicates.

It’s just too bad that many of the casualties are poor. That’s because they are vulnerable to the lure of easy money that the illegal drugs business offers.

Another reason why President Duterte enjoys high trust ratings despite the barrage of issues thrown against him by the opposition is that Filipinos have grown sick and tired of the rhetoric of the yellows, particularly the Liberal Party. The nation saw one of the worst corruption in its history in the six years that the Liberal Party was in power. Worse, the Liberal Party cheated in the last two elections in a vain effort to perpetuate themselves in power.

And it was the Liberal Party that orchestrated the P3.5 billion Dengvaxia mass vaccination that is believed to have caused dozens of deaths among Filipino children and put the lives of thousands more at risk.

President Duterte is not perfect. I have said this time and again. But he is the best option for the country right now. The worse thing that could happen to the Philippines is allow the Liberal Party to retake power.

 

 

Which side are we on?

I am confused.
When Iloilo City was hit by a spate of murders by gunmen riding-in-tandem, apparently upon orders of drug syndicates and their corrupt protectors, there was no outcry.
I was even sued by Jed Patrick Mabilog for libel for labelling him as a crime protector.
And now La Salle and Ateneo communities are being agitated to wear black to protest the so-called extra judicial killings!
Which side are we on?
I know there are vigilante killings. But these have been going on for decades now. It’s not as if Duterte gave birth to it.
But most of the deaths in the war against illegal drugs resulted from legitimate operations.
To prove that legitimacy, we just need to count the number of PNP and PDEA agents who have died in the line of fire.
Those guys who continue to peddle shabu and other illicit drugs are desperate. They will kill to keep on with their trade. They know the authorities are hot on their trail, and they will do business armed and dangerous.
The Duterte administration should not relent on its war against illegal drugs. It must keep up the momentum. This is a fight to the finish.

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.

 

An enemy from within

There’s no mistaking the fact that the battle against illegal drugs is as difficult as repulsing a foreign invader, or even harder.
That’s because the enemy is hard to detect. The pusher is not just the street pug that was the stereotype in the past. Now even a public school teacher has been caught selling drugs. Barangay officials, too, have been nabbed in buy-bust operations. They are like the Vietcong whom the Americans had to fight half a century ago in the ricefields of Vietnam: by day ordinary farmers, by night fierce warriors.
We have to accept the reality that this battle can be waged in a rule of law setting. As we have seen time and again, drug lords and pushers can afford the best legal minds to defend them in court. And even in jail, they continue to run the illegal drugs trade with impunity.
For this alone, I am prepared to see President Duterte do it with brute force. Of course, he just has to be cautioned not to waste human lives. Just the same, the authorities should not hesitate to use force when it is deemed necessary.

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.