SC orders deeper probe on judges who handled Espinosa drug case
MANILA — The Supreme Court has sought a deeper probe of three lower court judges who issued the search warrant and handled the detention transfer request of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.’s who was murdered by a police team inside his sub-provincial jail last Nov. 8.
High Court spokesperson Theodore Te said the Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday ordered the re-docketing of the administrative case against Baybay, Leyte RTC Branch 14 Judge Carlos O. Arguelles; Basey, Samar RTC Branch 30 Judge Tarcelo A. Sabarre Jr; and Calbiga, Samar RTC Branch 33 Judge Janet M. Cabalona to Associate Justice Gabriel T. Ingles of the Court of Appeals of Cebu City.
The high court was apparently not pleased with the results of the probe of the Office of the Court Administrator, which gave the three judges a mere slap on the wrist – Arguelles was only given a reminder to be more “circumspect” in resolving very urgent motions such as when she sat on the request of Espinosa to move to another detention from the sub-provincial jail of Baybay, Leyte; and a P10,000 fine for Sabarre and Cabalona for gross ignorance of the law for issuing search warrants in a government prison and another province.
“The Court, after considering the OCA’s report, disagreed with the OCA recommendation in so far as Judge Arguelles is concerned, finding that there is enough reason to warrant further investigation of the three judges,” said Te.
The high tribunal noted that while Arguelles pondered on Espinosa’s transfer request, two drug detainees were killed in jail on Aug. 11, 2016, or three months before Espinosa was shot down by CIDG team from Region 8 inside his cell along with another inmate, Raul Yap, on Nov. 5.
In its report to the Supreme Court, OCA said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group applied for a search warrant in a government detention facility because there was a collusion between Espinosa and the jail guards. But OCA said that courts should not allow themselves to be used and that the police should have exhausted other means before seeking a search warrant. The Supreme Court said these incidents should have alerted Arguelles that Espinosa’s fears of threats to his life were “real and not imagined.”
The Supreme Court also cited the need to look into the anonymous letters the OCA received, which stated that Samar’s RTC judges were friendly with the CIDG in the region because Cabalona’s husband was a police superintendent; and that Sabarre issued the the search warrant in exchange for the CIDG stopping a young boy from suing him for seduction.
The OCA also found out that Cabalona also issued two search warrants against detainees in a government facility who, like Espinosa, were killed by the police who served the warrant.
While the OCA dismissed the letters as “loose talks,” the Supreme Court opined that they raise serious allegations that need to be clarified.
“Judges are expected to resolve matters before their salas impartially and independently. Allegations that tend to show that they decided a matter for considerations other than their own conscience and knowledge of the law not only smear their dignity but threaten the very foundations of the judiciary as well,” Te said.
Te noted that their failings were made more “grievous” by the deaths of individuals due to failures in the court process. SFM
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