Crying ‘bias,’ Angel Manalo gets QC judge off gun case
The Quezon City judge handling the case against expelled Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) member Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo had inhibited himself from further hearings, after Manalo’s camp cited “lack of faith and trust” in his actions over recent rulings.
Judge Luisito Cortez of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 84 granted Manalo’s motion to inhibit in an order the judge signed on Dec. 20, 2017.
On Jan. 5, all records related to the case of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition against Manalo and his nephew Victor Eraño Hemedez, and the case of direct assault with frustrated murder against former Marine officer Jonathan Ledesma, were sent to the Office of the Clerk of Court for a reraffle.
No reraffle had been conducted as of Wednesday.
Manalo alleged that Cortez’s ruling denying his and Hemedez’s motion to fix bail was “greatly prejudiced.” They also assailed the deferment of the resolution on that motion as a violation of their constitutional right to post bail.
“The bias and prejudice of the presiding judge was further manifested when he granted the prosecution’s ‘motion to admit attached information’ despite irregularities (that) have been pointed out by the accused,” according to Manalo’s motion to inhibit prepared by counsel Juanito Lim Jr.
In his order granting the motion 16 days after it was filed, Cortez said that after evaluating the arguments of the accused, he would voluntarily recuse himself to “restore their faith in the judicial system.”
Bail issue up to next court
“The Court thru (sic) the presiding [judge] is of considered opinion that whatever may be the disposition of the court, even guided and applicable jurisprudence, when adverse to the movants, will always entertain such state of mind on their part that they will not obtain any fair trial,” he wrote.
Cortez added that such thinking had persisted despite the court granting “some of their positive relief” in an earlier resolution.
He also left the issue regarding Manalo’s bail to the next judge. “It would be better for the next court to resolve pending motion … for the next court to have a second look on the assailed order … to appease the doubting minds of the movants.”
Cortez had been hearing the charges against Manalo, Hemedez and Ledesma since March 2017.
The three were arrested on March 2 last year when the Quezon City police served a search warrant on the disputed INC property on Tandang Sora. Conducting two searches on the compound, the police said they found more than 80 rifles and pistols, about 90 hand and rifle grenades, and more than 17,000 rounds of ammunition.
Jailed in Bicutan
A shootout also broke out between Ledesma and the police, according to the complaint.
The three remained in detention at Metro Manila District Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
In November, the Supreme Court approved the transfer of their trial venue from the QC RTC to the MMDJ. This was after the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology categorized Angel—the estranged brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo—and his coaccused as “high profile inmates.”
Their arraignment supposedly on Dec. 6 last year was deferred due to their pending motions.
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