Sandiganbayan bars ex-judge from holding public office

MANILAThe Sandiganbayan has barred from public office a former judge of Marawi City Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) after finding him guilty of obstruction of justice over the release of a detainee without lawful order which led to his escape.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division, in a 15-page decision dated Dec. 7, 2018, found former Marawi City, Lanao del Sur MTCC Presiding Judge Baguinda-Ali Ahmad Pacalna guilty of violation of Section 1 (c) of Presidential Decree 1820, or the Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders.

The anti-graft court sentenced him to suffer the penalty of a PHP6,000 fine, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. He was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The Office of the Ombudsman charged then Judge Pacalna with obstruction of justice for allegedly taking custody of detainee Menor Saud on Sept. 19, 2007 based on his acknowledgement receipt as a judge, which resulted in Saud's escape.

Saud was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and a warrant of arrest for carnapping issued by the Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Sur. He was detained at the Marawi City Jail. Pacalna went to the city jail and took custody of Saud despite objection of the police officers.

Pacalna resigned from the judiciary on Dec. 1, 2009 while he was being investigated by the Supreme Court for his action.

Court records also showed that Pacalna surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation in Iligan City on March 17, 2017 and posted a PHP12,000 bail for his temporary liberty before the Iligan City Regional Trial Court.

Before he could be arraigned, Pacalna filed motion for judicial re-determination of probable cause asking that the case be dismissed for lack of probable cause.

In its comment, the prosecution argued that the Ombudsman has found, based on the evidence adduced during the preliminary investigation, sufficient grounds exist to indict the accused with obstruction of justice.

In a resolution dated June 15, 2017, the Sandiganbayan denied the motion ruling that the movant's contention is a matter of defense that should be proven during the trial of the case.

This finding was upheld by the Supreme Court following the denial of the petition for certiorari filed by the accused.

The accused was arraigned on Aug. 3, 2017 and pleaded not guilty.

His allegations that he neither obstructed nor intended to obstruct the administration of justice as Saud's call for assistance was so deafening that everyone who had the heart would have lent succor to him especially in the light of the fact that Saud's arresting officers did not bring him to the hospital for fear of being indicted for police brutality' does not hold water, the Sandiganbayan said in its ruling.

Interestingly, the accused never denied having execute and signed the hand-written note acknowledging the living body of Menor Saud for custody when the latter was detained at the Marawi City Jail, it added.

The anti-graft court noted that the release of a detention prisoner must be upon the order of a competent court, either through recognizance or by posting of a bond in any form allowed by law.

Taking advantage of his position as a judge, his act was clearly tainted with undue influence upon the jail warden when the latter allowed the unlawful release of Menor Saud sans any court order or bail being posted, the Sandiganbayan said.

Given the foregoing facts and taking into consideration the admission of accused that he has executed and signed a handwritten note clearly stating that he received the living body of one Menor Saud for custody without any lawful authority, the guilt of accused has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, it added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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