Catanduanes officials call for RTC judge’s ouster

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LEGAZPI CITY: The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) of Catanduanes has passed a resolution asking the Supreme Court (SC) for the ouster of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Lelu Contreras for lying before the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs in connection with the mega shabu laboratory busted in the province last year.

The immediate removal of Contreras, presiding judge of RTC Branches 42 and 43 was sought by the members of the Provincial Board for lying before the congressional inquiry regarding the snail-paced release of search warrant over the controversial shabu laboratory in Barangay Palta Small, Virac town.

Board Member Giovanni Balmadrid said he is pushing for the removal of Contreras from her post as he cannot allow a lying judge to issue verdict on anyone who may have cases before her sala for lack of trust and confidence.

In a three-page resolution by Balmadrid supported by six out of eight-member board, it said that during the legislative inquiry Contreras denied before the committee by Rep. Ace Barbers that she was within the premises of the shabu laboratory. She later retracted when Barbers told her he had pictures of her taken inside the shabu laboratory area with corresponding date and time indicated prior to her issuance of a search warrant.

Contreras was under fire for allegedly delaying the issuance of a search warrant sought by Police Chief Insp. James Ronatay of Virac town for the raid of the mega shabu laboratory in Barangay Palta Small.

The Philippine National Police-Bicol uncovered on November 26, 2016 the existence of the shabu facility at the property of Angelica Balmadrid, common-law wife of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Eric Isidoro.

Isidoro was head of the NBI’s anti-drug unit during the time of Justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima. The warehouse is leased to a certain Jason Uy, alias “Paulo Uy,” reportedly a Chinese.

On February 23, the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs conducted a probe to look into the involvement of local officials in the drug trade, four months after the discovery of the huge shabu laboratory.

Immediately after the Provincial Board passed the resolution for Contreras’ ouster, the judge called a media briefing to explain her side. Contreras cried foul over the unfounded accusations against her and discounted the action of the council, saying the move does not represent the people of Catanduanes.

RHAYDZ BARCIA

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