NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Bohol Chapter took umbrage over insinuations by 1st District Board Member Ricky Masamayor that judges and lawyers handling drug cases filed before courts in Bohol “always acquit drug-related cases”.
Swiftly reacting to the opinion and stand of Masamayor, a statement expressing grave concern was issued by the IBP-Bohol Chapter condemning the move of Masamayor “to come up with a list of lawyers and judges handling and hearing drug-related cases”.
According to the Bohol lawyers, unless he can provide justification, Masamayor’s pronouncement borders on “contempt of our courts” and is “nothing but an attempt to intimidate and pressure our judges to always convict or face ostracism at the bar of public opinion”.
The IBP statement magnified the “basic and elementary principle that in a criminal case if the prosecution fails to prove the guilt of an accused beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge hearing the case must render an acquittal”.
Deemed as an affront to the legal profession, a number of lawyers reacted to the alleged statements of Masamayor prompting the IBP-Bohol Chapter to rebuke the Board Member for political aggrandizement at the expense of the Bench and Bar.
The scathing statement from the IBP-Bohol Chapter addressed to Masamayor was signed by its President, Idonah Lee Grupo-Coritico, Chapter Officers, and Board of Directors.
However, in an interview over DYRD “Inyong Alagad” on Friday, Masamayor admitted that upon the suggestion of newly-appointed Acting Police Provincial Director, Police Colonel (PCOL) Joselito Clarito to conduct a review of the status of drug cases filed in court, he was mulling to enlist the assistance of judges and lawyers involved in the litigation to elicit their legal expertise and skills to further hone the handling of drug operation and cases by our police.
“I never put malice or attempted to smear the reputation of the judges and lawyers when I called for a list of their names but was my noble intention to assist our new Police Director”.
According to Masamayor, the six kilos of suspected “shabu” were equivalent to a month supply of drugs in the province which alarmed Clarito who before his assignment to Bohol headed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG).
For his part, Clarito told “Inyong Alagad” that the PNP’s case monitoring and build-up should be a close partnership between the Prosecutor and the enforcement investigators.
The need to review dismissed drug cases will serve as lessons learned that will lead to the filing of airtight cases in court, according to Clarito.
Clarito also said that cases dismissed by the courts bring demoralization to police officers involved in the operation even as he voiced confidence that with the strong evidence backing the filing of the P42.9 million drug case, “no judge will have the audacity to dismiss the case”, said Clarito.
Even before the euphoria died down over the historic P42.9 million 6-kilo meth bust – considered the biggest ever haul in the province by the Philippine National Police (PNP) PDEG, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Bohol Police Provincial Office (BPPO), questions were raised by the local media that drug cases that will be subsequently filed will be jeopardized by alleged lapses by police operatives during the drug operation.
In a press conference at the provincial headquarters of the PNP-BPPO at Camp Francisco Dagohoy in Tagbilaran City on Wednesday, Clarito, exuding confidence responded to questions from media on the strength of the evidence standing up to the strict scrutiny of the courts gave the assurance that “wala tayong dismissal sa kaso na ito” (We don’t expect this case to be dismissed).
Several high-profile drug cases were dismissed by the courts due to alleged police failure to strictly adhere to the provisions of the law and the PNP manual of operations.
During the press conference, Masamayor, as chairman of the Peace and Order Committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan informed Clarito that ” sa Bohol mayron kaming research kung sino itong mga judge parating nag-acquit ng drug cases at mga abogado na parating nag-handle ng drug cases. Hindi naman natin pinagbawalan pero dahil sa technicality lang na dismiss na”.
(In Bohol we are conducting a study on judges that is known to acquit accused in drug cases including lawyers who always handle this kind of case. We are not suggesting that they refrain from appearing before the courts but these cases are dismissed due to mere technicalities).
MONEY AND INFLUENCE
Masamayor also showed his dismay over the abuses committed under the plea bargaining agreement which has gained a negative reputation as a business negotiation.
“Mayron kaming resolution kasama si Provincial Prosecutor Macario Delusa asking Congress to strengthen the provisions of the plea bargain dahil kawawa and ating operatives. Huli nang huli pero kung may kilala sa itaas o kaibigan, plea bargain kaagad. Parang niluluto tayo sa ating sariling mantika”.
(We are filing a resolution with the assistance of Provincial Prosecutor Macario Delusa asking Congress to strengthen the provisions of the plea bargain. I pity our police operative’s effort to arrest illegal drug personalities but are stymied by those arrested who have connections and friends from high places to facilitate their plea bargain. We are stewed by our own grease).
The Supreme Court ordered plea bargain deals involving small amounts of shabu and will allow drug peddlers to plead guilty to a lesser offense of possession of drug paraphernalia including reduced sentences and probation.
Atty. Roland Inting, IBP National Secretary and member of the IBP-Bohol Chapter said that statements attributed to Masamayor as posted on social media and news reports from other news outfit have cast a bad light on the reputation of judges and lawyers handling drug cases.
According to Inting, the statement attributed to Masamayor as posted on social media and news reports should either be denied or corrected since these are considered intrusions on the judicial authority of the court of law and practice of the legal profession.
“We are duty-bound to protect the rights of litigants. We are not protecting the criminal act but are duty-bound to protect the rights of both parties before the courts”.
“When a lawyer accepts a case, it does not mean that he agrees with the crime or the act but he is protecting and defending the rights of the person to counsel as provided and mandated by law”, added Inting.
IBP Press Relations Officer, Julius Gregory Delgado issued a statement on behalf of President Coritico conveying the members deeply hurt feelings by the context and manner the pronouncements were made portraying judges and lawyers who always handle drug-related cases.pose a hindrance and roadblocks to the campaign against illegal drugs.
According to Delgado, the statement was made during the press briefing in connection with the biggest buy-bust that hauled 6 kilos worth P42.9 million making it appear that these judges and lawyers who are just performing their sworn duties to the campaign against illegal drugs.
The IBP Bohol leadership is looking forward to a meaningful dialogue with the new Provincial Police Director Clarito and Board Member Ricky Masamayor to improve, strengthen or expand the Legal Aid for Effective Law Enforcement Program (LAELEP). (Chito M. Visarra)