MANILA— Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 1 Judge Antonio Reyes, one of the four judges named by President Rodrigo Duterte involved in the illegal drugs trade in the country is set face administrative charges.
This was the result of the fact-finding report of retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad who was tasked to probe the judges allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade in the country.
The Supreme Court accepted Abad’s recommendation stating that “an administrative case for corruption be instituted” against Reyes.
”With this acceptance, Justice Roberto A. Abad is considered discharged from his designation as the sole investigator for this administrative matter,” SC said in a four-page resolution promulgated last Feb. 21 but was released on Thursday.
In making the recommendations in his report, Abad cited several drug cases dismissed by Judge Reyes after the accused supposedly paid him certain amounts as alleged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Abad said PDEA submitted an affidavit dated Oct. 26, 2007 executed by a certain Paul Black, a convict saying that he paid a total of PHP50,000 in exchange for the dismissal of a drug case against his wife. The amount was paid in two tranches-the last was on July 5, 2007 for PHP35,000, the date of the promulgation. Black’s wife was acquitted.
PDEA also submitted documents showing that the judge dismissed the drug case against Norma Domingo whom he was allegedly using to negotiate pay-offs from those charged with similar offenses.
“The memorandum (dated Nov. 26, 2007) claimed that Norma even issued a receipt for PHP300,000 that a certain Richard Lagunilla gave her in exchange for his acquittal by Judge Reyes,” read Abad’s report.
Abad told the Court that PDEA planned to entrap the judge but dropped the plan since payments were made through his driver.
Another affidavit submitted by PDEA was dated Dec. 10, 2007 executed by Melchora Nagen who said she was acquitted after paying PHP50,000.
Nagen, in her affidavit said she became friends with Domingo and accompanied her in jail visits to convince detainees facing drug cases to raise money for their acquittal.
Abad also cited an anonymous letter claiming that certain lawyers surnamed Mamaril, Bomogao, Felix and Katigbak had obtained similar acquittals from their clients.
Reyes, on the other hand denied the allegations against him.
The High Court also directed Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to proceed with the inventory of cases decided by Judge Reyes to determine whether there is basis for the allegation that convictions were reversed in exchange for money.
The OCA will also to investigate the driver of Judge Reyes for bribery, and further, if the said driver took money from litigants on behalf of Judge Reyes.
The SC also requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to locate the witnesses identified in the report of Justice Abad and also directed to submit a report on its findings relative to the request within a period of 30 days.
Abad has been ordered to conduct a fact-finding investigation on the involvement of several judges accused by President Duterte of being involved in illegal drugs.
Last December, upon the recommendations of Abad to the Supreme Court, the three judges has been cleared in the involvement of illegal drugs after the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) failed to submit evidence against the three.
””The court hereby declares that no evidence has been put forward to link Judges Exequil Dagala (of the MTC in Dapa-Socorro in Siargao Island, Surigao); Adriano Savillo, (RTC, Branch 30, Iloilo City); Domingo Casiple (RTC, Branch 7, Kalibo, Aklan), to any involvement in the use, trade or proliferation of illegal drugs and hereby this fact-finding investigation against them is hereby terminated,” SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said as he read the decision during the press conference last December 7, 2016
The high court affirmed Abad’s recommendation.
“Acting on his Report, the Court found that no prima facie case has been established against the said judges. It was constrained to terminate the investigation considering that despite repeated pleas, the PDEA insisted that no witness is willing to come forward and that it has exhausted the documentary evidence it can submit,” the high court said.
Earlier, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said even without formal complaints, they have also initiated motu proprio (on their own) investigation.
“In addition to undertaking motu proprio investigations, I will be proposing more proactive and preventive measures against corruption,” Sereno added.
Last August 7, President Duterte included seven judges involved in his drug list.
Of the seven, only four were still with the judiciary since one of them already passed away, one was dismissed while the other one has retired.