30.6 C
Manila
Sunday, April 21, 2024

SC: Let’s not allow jails to become ‘cesspools’ of illegal drug trade

- Advertisement -

SAYING that it would not allow Philippine penal institutions to be a haven of illegal drug trade, the Supreme Court has ruled that trial court judges may issue a search warrant against inmates believed to be conducting illegal drug trade or other illegal activities while in a government-controlled detention facility.

However, the Court stressed that judges must adhere to any relevant statute, court issuance and decision governing applications for search warrants involving violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

“The Court is not unmindful of the present condition of the country’s detention facilities. Personalities involved in illegal drug trade have now become more cunning and sophisticated in their operations,” the SC noted.

“They now conspire with corrupt law enforcers and capitalize on the aid of technology to continue their illegal drug trade business even while under the custody of the State. We cannot allow penal institutions to become cesspools of illegal drug trade and other unlawful activities that defeat the very essence for these facilities: to protect society from crimes; and to rehabilitate offenders,” the Court added.

The SC made these statements in a decision made public on August 24, 2021, which resolved the administrative cases filed against three trial court judges involved in the issuance of search warrants that led to the death of several inmates, including Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was killed by policemen inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City in November 2016.

In asking for the trial court’s assistance to implement the search, the Court expressed belief that correctional officers conniving with high-profile inmates will now be compelled to cooperate in implementing the search and there will be no opportunity to conceal their illegal activities inside detention facilities.

In a 28-page per curiam decision, the Court dismissed the administrative complaint filed against Judge Carlos Arguelles of the Regional Trial Court, Baybay, Leyte, Branch 14.

On the other hand, the Court found Judge Tarcelo A. Sabarre Jr. of the Regional Trial Court of Basey, Samar, Branch 30 and Judge Janet M. Cabalona of the Regional Trial Court, Calbiga, Samar, Branch 33 guilty of violation of Supreme Court rules, directives, and circulars, an offense classified as a less serious charge.

In light of this, judges Sabarre and Cabalona were ordered to pay a fine of P20,000 each with a stern warning that a repetition of the same act would be dealt with more severe sanctions.

“Judges, like lawyers, are mandated to constantly keep themselves abreast of developments in the field of law. As officers of the court, they are expected to strictly adhere to any relevant statute, decision, or court issuance that govern applications for search warrants involving violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” the Court said.

Sabarre was the judge who issued a search warrant on illegal possession of firearm charges against Espinosa and his co-accused Raul Yap, who were then already under the custody of authorities in a government detention facility in Baybay, Leyte.

The application for a search warrant against Espinosa Sr. was for violation of RA 10591 wherein it was alleged that despite being an inmate, Espinosa has in his possession an unlicensed firearm and several rounds of live ammunition kept and concealed particularly under his pillow in his bedside.

The application for a search warrant against Yap was for violation of RA 9165 and states that Yap has in his possession “several grams of illegal drugs and paraphernalia kept and concealed particularly under his pillow in his bed inside.”

Both Espinosa and Yap were killed after they fired at the raiding team from the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG)-Region 8 who were serving the search warrants on November 5, 2016.

On the other hand, Arguelles was administratively charged over his failure to immediately resolve the motion of Espinosa in his drug trafficking case for transfer to another detention.

Judge Cabalona was administratively charged in connection with the search warrants she issued against Allan Alvarez, an inmate in the regional penal colony in Abuyog, Leyte, and against inmate Fernando Balagbis, who was detained at Baybay City Jail.

The police killed both inmates during the implementation of the search warrants.

It was reported that during the implementation of the warrant, Alvarez threw a hand grenade and pulled out a handgun to the raiding team, prompting the latter to fire upon the former resulting to his death while Balagbis died after he allegedly fired upon the members of the implementing team.

On the other hand, Arguelles was administratively charged over his failure to immediately resolve the motion of Espinosa in his drug trafficking case for transfer out of his place to another detention.

On December 5, 2016, the Office of the Court Administrator issued its findings and held that the issuance of search warrants to search jail facilities of the government can be considered as gross ignorance of the law for which judges can be held liable.

Thus, it directed the two judges to pay a fine of P10,000 each with a warning that a repetition of the offense would be dealt with more severely.

Upon review of the Office of the Court Administrator’s (OCA) findings, the Court subsequently designated Court of Appeals Cebu Associate Justice Gabriel Ingles to conduct a probe on the administrative liabilities of the three judges.

The investigating officer submitted its report to the Court en banc stating that he agreed with the recommendation of the OCA that there exists no reason to impose any administrative liability against Judge Arguelles.

The investigating officer held that Judge Arguelles had nothing to do with the death of Espinosa nor did he incur delay in resolving his motion to be transferred to another facility.

With regard to the search warrants issued by Judge Sabarre and Judge Cabalona, the investigating officer found that these were not in compliance with OCA Circular 88-2016 as the policemen who applied for these warrants failed to secure the necessary endorsement from the key officials enumerated in said circular.

After reviewing the record, the Court decided to adopt the findings of the investigating officer with modification.

It said the investigating officer correctly ruled that there was no intent to delay the resolution of Espinosa’s motion on the part of Judge Arguelles.

On the other hand, in the cases of judges Sabarre and Cabalona, the SC noted that while the issuance of a search warrant against an inmate is not absolutely prohibited, they should have complied with the stringent requirements under the Rules and other issuances of the Court.

The Court noted that search warrants issued by Judge Sabarre and Judge Cabalona were not in compliance with OCA Circular 88-2016, which provides, among others, that that applications for search warrants should be endorsed by the heads of the National Bureau of Investigation, the PNP Anti-Crime Task Force (ACTAF) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

- Advertisement -

Leave a Reply

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -