Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno led the Supreme Court in exonerating three judges accused by President Rodrigo Duterte in August of involvement in the drug trade.
In a resolution penned by Sereno, the high court terminated the fact-finding investigation against Judge Exequil Dagala of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Dapa-Socorro in Surigao del Norte; Judge Adriano Savillo of Iloilo City Regional Trial Court Branch 30 and Judge Domingo Casiple of Kalibo, Aklan Regional Trial Court Branch 7.
According to the high tribunal, there was no evidence to prove that the judges were involved in illegal drugs. The probe however can be reopened if there is evidence to warrant it, the court said.
“Wherefore, the Court hereby declares that no evidence has been put forward to link Judges Exequil Dagala, Adriano Savillo and Domingo Casiple Jr to any involvement in the use, trade or proliferation of illegal drugs, and thereby this fact-finding investigation against them is hereby terminated,” the dispositive portion of the resolution read.
The magistrates acted on a report submitted by retired justice Roberto Abad, who conducted the fact-finding investigation and declared that there was “no prima facie case” against the three judges.
As regards Judge Antonio Reyes of Baguio City Regional Trial Court Branch 61, Abad reported that he was still waiting for a response to a query he had made concerning the allegations.
The court noted that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) could not produce a witness against the judges.
“[W]e must also be steadfast in our undertaking to not be the instrument that destroys the reputation of any member of the bench by pronouncing guilt based merely on speculation,” the resolution stated.
The tribunal expressed concern over the risks and damage to reputation suffered by the judges because of the “premature announcement” by Duterte.
It directed court offices to discuss ways to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the security of judges.