MANILA — One of the two judges of the Ozamiz City Regional Trial Court (RTC) inhibited from handling the criminal cases filed against Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez and her brother Reynaldo Jr., due to her compulsory retirement this month.
“On the ground of compulsory retirement from public service of the Presiding Judge of this court this month — August 2017, having no more time to hear or try the cases or motions in connection thereof which require or need immediate action as well as for reason of delecadeza in order to preclude doubt or suspicion from both parties concerned …the undersigned hereby inhibits from handling the same,” Ozamiz City RTC Branch 35 Judge Salome P. Dungog said in a one-page order dated August 8, 2017.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the filing of criminal charges against the Parojinog siblings in connection with the July 30 anti-drug operations that resulted in the death of their father Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. and 13 others.
Echavez was charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 specifically Section 11 for possession of dangerous drugs and violation of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition under Section 28 of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
Her brother Reynaldo Jr. is also facing three counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. He is also facing a separate case for illegal possession of explosives under RA 9516 and possession of dangerous drugs under RA 9165.
“Respondent Nova Princess Parojinog is not a licensed firearms holder of any kind of caliber based on (PNP firearms and licensing division records). There is, therefore, no recourse but not find probable cause against respondent Nova Princess Parojinog for illegal possession of light weapon and ammunition,” read the DOJ resolution.
The cases of the vice mayor and her brother will be supposedly handled by Judge Edmundo Pintac of the Ozamiz RTC Branch 15 and Dungog, respectively.
Prior to Dungog’s inhibition, Pintac has also expressed plans to inhibit from the cases.
“It should be heard and tried in a neutral place; not here in Ozamiz,” Pintac said in a recent television interview.
In a related development, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II asked the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the cases of Parojinog siblings from the Ozamiz RTC to Quezon City RTC.
In a three-page letter addressed to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dated Aug. 17, 2017 but was released to media on Monday, Aguirre said Ozamiz judges and prosecutors both expressed concern and fear of threats once they are tasked to handle the cases in the city.
“I would like to stress that notwithstanding the death of Mayor Parojinog, their clout should not be underestimated. The fact that they have been power in Ozamiz City for so long is a ckear indication that they have capacity to influence, if not threaten the prosecution witnesses, the judges and the prosecution and subvert the criminal proceedings in Ozamiz City in their favor,” Aguirre said in his letter.
Aguirre sought the immediate transfer of their cases to Quezon City since the suspects have been detained inside the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
“Transferring the venue of trial to the National Capital Judicial Region will obviate the need for additional security personnel to be assigned to the witnesses and more BJMP security escorts for the accused, thereby reducing the cost of trial. Transferring the cases will deter the accuseds agents from possibly threatening, inflicting harm, or influencing the prosecution witnesses,” Aguirre explained. (PNA)