Consequences of the SC order in the shabu lab cases
posted 14-Jul-2018  ·  
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Last Monday, Philippine news websites online broke the latest development in the Virac shabu laboratory cases filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Virac months ago.

Granting the request of former Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, the Supreme Court has ordered the transfer of the criminal cases to RTC Makati after the DOJ chief questioned the partiality of RTC Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras.

It may be recalled that the last time Judge Contreras spoke on the issue was in April when she scored DOJ prosecutors for trying to destroy her name and one of the accused, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) senior agent Eric Isidoro, for trying to influence her to grant his request to be transferred to the NBI custodial center during the pendency of the case.

In a June 19 order, the High Court directed the Clerk of Court of RTC Virac to forward the records of the three cases to the Makati City RTC, where the cases will be raffled off within three days upon receipt of the case documents. It also ordered the magistrates to be assigned to the cases to hear and decide them in the soonest possible time.

Aside from the stain that it leaves on the lower court, the SC decision would most likely lead to Isidoro saying goodbye to his spartan accommodations at the overcrowded Virac district jail. If he is allowed by the Makati RTC to be detained at the NBI jail, then Isidoro would most likely be in relatively comfortable custody.

Not the same can be said about the other accused, farm caretaker Lorenzo Piñera II, who has been in detention since his arrest in December 2016. He, along with star witness Ernesto Tabor Jr. and law enforcers who investigated his allegations, will have to travel with heavy security to Manila every time a hearing is called

Should the concerned Makati RTC branch formally take the case, it would decide on Isidoro’s appeal for transfer of detention, as well as craft an order to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA) to destroy the illegal drugs, precursor chemicals and equipment still stored at the partially unroofed warehouse and at the provincial crime laboratory.

Once most of the evidence is destroyed, the Catanduanes Provincial Police Office will be able to finally recall the police personnel they assigned to guard the warehouse on a 24/7 basis since the day of the shabu lab’s discovery in November 2016.

For over a year-and-a-half now, according to reports, the police contingent has been guarding the site with the extra expense of overtime shouldered by the local police command. It is also claimed that the farm where the shabu lab is located has also borne part of the burden, with its herd of wild pigs gone along with some fighting cocks.

Of course, the order of the High Court deprives the nosy Catanduanes public of enjoying the spectacle involved in the hearings of the controversial cases, an activity that would have led to an overcrowded sala at a time most citizens are literally sweating the effects of deficient power grid.

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