Drug allegations vs judges alarm Chief Justice

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2019 12:06 PM | Updated as of Apr 08 2019 12:19 PM

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BAGUIO CITY – Allegations that some judges are linked to the illegal drug trade are "no small thing", Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said Monday as he explained the Supreme Court's decision to appoint Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta to look into the matter.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino earlier claimed 13 judges and 10 prosecutors, all yet to be identified, were supposedly included in its narco-list.

"Itong lumabas na ito ay galing mismo sa Office of the President so hindi naman dapat na ignore-in namin ‘yan so we thought of assigning Justice Peralta to look into this matter. It’s not a small thing for anyone to accuse sitting judges of violations as serious as drug-related ones,” Bersamin said.

(What came out came directly from the Office of the President, so we should not ignore it, so we thought of assigning Justice Peralta to look into this matter.)

He added it is a perfectly natural reaction for the high court to look into allegations concerning judges.

“Every time na merong ilalabas ang Executive Department, media o anumang quarter about misbehaving judges, automatic na titingnan, tututukan ng Supreme Court ‘yan,” he told reporters after the SC’s flag-raising ceremony.

(Every time that the Executive Department, media, or any other quarter releases something about misbehaving judges, the Supreme Court automatically looks into it.)

“So it was only natural for the Supreme Court to assign one of its most senior members to look into these allegations and if there are any bases for these allegations then we would proceed against the judges concerned."

The SC en banc last week designated Peralta to “coordinate and communicate directly with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for the list of judges allegedly linked to narcotics. 

"Justice Peralta has not yet given a report and I doubt if he has already done much because it is too soon. We will give him all the time and we will not rush things because these are serious allegations that we cannot just ignore. And at the same time, we cannot just condemn our judges so readily without basis. So we have to go slowly,” Bersamin said.

In August 2016, President Duterte publicly accused 7 judges of alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.

The announcement prompted then-Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to write to the President to complaint about the “premature public announcement.”

She also cautioned judges against surrendering if no warrant is shown.

Of the 7 judges named, 1 had been killed, 1 had been dismissed while another one had retired.

After months of investigation, SC cleared 3 of the remaining 4 judges while the last one faced an administrative charge.