Dumaguete court dismisses case vs drug suspects due to illegal arrest; PDEA agents face contempt charges

A DUMAGUETE City regional trial court dismissed the charges against five drug suspects who were supposedly arrested by law enforcers in a fake buy-bust operation.

The court also initiated indirect contempt proceedings against five Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) agents, a barangay official, and a media representative “for making untruthful statements in their affidavits, and for directly impeding and degrading the administration of justice.”

In a 15-page order, Judge Amelia Lourdes U. Mendoza ordered the release of four of the accused, and the return of the bail posted by one of them.

PDEA claimed that the five were arrested in a buy-bust operation in the house of one of the accused.

Those charged, however, said they were picked up by PDEA agents at different times and places before they were brought to the house where the buy-bust supposedly took place.

The court noted that the CCTV footage from cameras operated by the local government unit supported the suspects’ claim.

“The Court is convinced that the accused in these cases were arrested in places other than where the supposed buy-bust operation took place and at a much earlier time than that declared by the PDEA agents,” the ruling read.

“The Court cannot simply brush aside these glaring coincidences that are too patent to ignore. The court concludes that accused were illegally arrested on June 28, 2020,” it said.

The judge further said “constant vigilance” is required of courts “to prevent our slippery slope towards contempt for the law and anarchy.”

“The courts must step in and take the cudgel for individual liberties, and in no other situation is this duty more critical and necessary than when supposed protectors of the law and order become perpetrators themselves,” the ruling read. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Supreme Court chief condemns attack on regional judge

CHIEF JUSTICE Diosdado M. Peralta called on law enforcement agencies to quickly resolve the shooting of a Camariñes Sur regional trial court judge and her aide that left both of them wounded.

In a statement, the Supreme Court head “strongly condemned” the shooting of Judge Jeaneth C. Gaminde-San Joaquin and her aide.

“An attack on our judges is an assault on the Rule of Law. This has no place in a civilized society like ours,” Mr. Peralta said in a statement.

Initial police report said the two were on their service vehicle going to Naga City on Tuesday afternoon when unidentified suspects on board a motorcycle fired at them.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Camariñes Sur Chapter also condemned in “strongest terms the wicked attempt and vicious assault” against the judge and her secretary.

The group said in its statement that it is in coordination with authorities and “will leave no corners hidden nor quarters safe for the evil perpetrators.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

LANDBANK-Davao office opens loan window to LGUs for infra, COVID-related projects

THE LAND Bank of the Philippines’ (LANDBANK) Davao office is ready to provide loans to local governments in the region for projects relating to the coronavirus response.

“If an LGU (local government unit) needs health care facilities like isolation facilities, LANDBANK can fund it,” Jose Enedicto “Joen” G. Faune, vice president for the bank’s Davao Lending Center, said in a Zoom conference last week.

The maximum loan amount will be determined by the Bureau of Local Government Finance based on the borrowing capacity of the municipality, city, or province.

“We can make a computation out of their internal revenue allotment but the final figure should be determine by the BLGF,” Mr. Faune said.

The state-run bank announced in early October that it has doubled its lending allocation to LGUs nationwide to P20 billion.

Mr. Faune also said its loan window for projects not related to the health crisis remains open, citing such examples as markets and transport terminals.

“We can fund it 100%. The development of a community must come from the LGU so that the small and medium enterprises will come in and encourage businesses within the sector, and increase the purchasing power to buy the produce of our farmers,” he said. — Maya M. Padillo

More areas placed under red tide alert

THE BUREAU of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has warned that shellfish collected in the areas of Honda Bay in Palawan, Maqueda and Villareal Bays in Western Samar, and Carigara Bay in Leyte are not safe for human consumption after testing positive for red tide contamination.

In its 23rd shellfish bulletin, BFAR said these areas join other red tide positive zones such as Bataan, particularly the areas of Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Hermosa, Orani, Abucay, and Samal; Inner Malampaya Sound and Puerto Princesa Bay in Palawan; Milagros in Masbate; Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol; and Tambobo Bay in Negros Oriental.

Other areas that remain positive for red tide contamination are Daram Island, Zumarraga, and Irong-Irong and San Pedro Bays in Western Samar; Cancabato Bay in Leyte; Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar; Balite Bay in Davao Oriental; and Lianga Bay and Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur.

All types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or alamang harvested from these areas are not safe for human consumption.

However, other marine species captured in the areas can be eaten by humans with proper handling.

“Fish, squid, shrimp, and crab are safe for human consumption provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking,” BFAR said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave 

Typhoon Pepito leaves trail of flooding as it exits Philippines

SEVERAL PARTS of the northern mainland Luzon were flooded as tropical storm Pepito (international name: Saudel) crossed the country, but no casualties and minimal preemptive evacuation was undertaken, according to a disaster management official.

Assistant Secretary Casiano C. Monilla,  deputy administrator for operations of the Office of Civil Defense, said disaster risk reduction and management teams have been on alert with the forecast of typhoons in the fourth quarter.

He said preemptive evacuations were immediately undertaken in areas prone to landslides and floods to avoid casualties.

“I also would like to commend iyong ating mga kababayan na sila ay (our countrymen for being) very cooperative,” Mr. Monilla said in an online briefing on Wednesday.

Weather bureau PAGASA, in its 5 p.m. advisory on Wednesday, has lifted all warning signals as the typhoon moved towards the West Philippine Sea, where it intensified into a severe tropical storm.

It is expected to be out of the Philippine area by Thursday morning or afternoon.

PAGASA forecasts Saudel to “turn westward beginning Friday towards the central portion of Vietnam.”