GORDON PRODS SC ON PROBE ON JUDGES ISSUING WARRANTS TO SEARCH GOVERNMENT DETENTION FACILITIES

Senator Richard J. Gordon has expressed hope that the Supreme Court would soon get to the bottom of some judges issuing warrants that allow Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives to ostensibly search inside government detention facilities.

Gordon pointed out that PNP operatives are able to effect questionable missions using search warrants issued by judges such as in the case of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa.

Espinosa was killed on November 5, 2016 inside his Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail cell, along with another inmate Raul Yap, while operatives of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 served a search warrant in connection with illegal possession of firearms charges.

"Dapat talagang maimbestiga yung mga huwes na nag-i-issue ng search warrant para sa loob ng piitan, sa loob ng isang government agency. Dapat matapos agad ang imbestigasyon at gumawa ng aksyon ang Korte Suprema diyan. For me, I don't think that's ignorance of the law alone, I think that's malicious," the senator said.

"Alam naman ng judge na hindi dapat mag-issue ng warrant sa loob ng piitan sapagkat sa preso, pwedeng buksan ang selda mo at halungkatin ang buong aparador mo, ang kama mo. Lahat pwedeng halungkatin. Bakit ka pa mag-issue ng warrant?" he added.

Gordon likewise expressed alarm that it may have become a modus operandi for some unscrupulous PNP members to serve search warrants inside prison facilities to lend legitimate color to their nefarious operations.

He cited two other previous instances where inmates have been killed while a team of PNP operatives were serving search warrants inside the jail. Killed in the said operations were inmates Francisco Balagbis and Edgar Allen Alvarez.

A week before the Espinosa killing, Balagbis, an inmate of the Baybay City Jail of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-8, was killed during a raid conducted on October 28, 2016 by operatives of the Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force of the Police Regional Office-8.

On the other hand, Alvarez was killed when police operatives raided the Leyte Regional Penitentiary in Abuyog, Leyte on August 11, 2016. He was shot to death while allegedly attempting to fight the raiding team from the CIDG, Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operations Group, Regional Public Safety Battalion, and the Regional Maritime Unit, all from Region 8.

In an en banc resolution issued on November 11, 2016, the Supreme Court ordered the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to investigate the judge involved in the Espinosa slay within five days and to submit a recommendation five days thereafter.

Thus, Court Administrator Midas Marquez ordered Judge Tarcelo Sabarre Jr. of Basey, Samar RTC Branch 30 and Judge Janet Cabalona of Calbiga, Samar RTC Branch 33 to explain the necessity and circumstances for the issuance of a search warrants against the detainees who were already under custody of authorities in a government detention facility. Sabarre issued the warrants against Espinosa and Balagbis, while Cabalona issued the warrant against Alvarez.

Source: Senate of the Philippines.

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