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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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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.

 

 

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.

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.

PNP Regional Office 6 asked to probe Mabilog-Espinosa friendship