MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) ordered an investigation on two lower court judges who handled the case of slain Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
In a resolution signed by Clerk of Court Felipa Anama, issued last November 8, the SC ordered the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to investigate the possible liabilities of two presiding regional trial court (RTC) judges: one who issued search warrants against the mayor and the other who failed to resolve the mayor's motion for a detention transfer.
Presiding Judge Tarcelo Sabarre Jr of Branch 30 RTC of Basey, Samar, granted the search warrants sought by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in two cells where Espinosa and co-accused Raul Yap were detained for their links to illegal drugs. (READ: CHR to probe killing of Albuera Mayor Espinosa)
Espinosa and Yap were killed in detention on November 5. The police were trying to serve Espinosa a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms in jail and another search warrant for Yap who was accused of violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Authorities said the two resisted, triggering a firefight – a claim belied by witnesses and even senators investigating the incident. (READ: Senate probe: Poorly-written script in Espinosa killing?)
The High Court wants to find out "the necessity for and the circumstances surrounding the issuance of a Search Warrant or Search Warrants directed against persons already in custody in a government detention facility" and the "compelling reasons" to grant the CIDG request. (READ: Duterte on Espinosa slay: I believe the police's story)
It also wants to know "the reasons behind the failure to immediately resolve the motion of the deceased Espinosa Sr for transfer out of his place of detention."
Presiding Judge Carlos Arguelles of Branch 14 RTC of Baybay, Leyte did not act on Espinosa's motion even if it was heard on October 19 "with an ocular inspection having been conducted by Judge Arguelles on [October 26]."
The OCA was given a "non-extendible period of 5 days" to complete the investigation and another strict deadline of 5 days to submit a report to the Court.