Questions raised on ‘delay’ in prison sentence execution vs Jing Jing Espinosa

A prominent lawyer in Iloilo City has expressed surprise, and disbelief, that a prison sentence imposed on Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. was not immediately carried out after the Regional Trial Court Branch 31 received a Resolution from the Supreme Court upholding his conviction for frustrated murder four years ago.

Atty. Eldrid Antiquera, a former Iloilo City Councilor and legal assistant of the late Raul M. Gonzalez when he served as Justice Secretary, told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo that the circumstances that caused the delayed execution of the jail sentence should be investigated to make sure there was no hanky-panky.

“The Supreme Court takes these things seriously, because such negligence can thwart the course of justice,” Antiquera said. In many cases, court officials found to have been remiss in their duties have been suspended for similar omissions, he added.

Rosenia Jover, OIC Clerk of Court of Branch 31, issued a notice of hearing to both the prosecution and the defense lawyer, as well as the bail bond companies, on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, to tackle the revocation of the P200,000 bail bond for Espinosa.

Another court official told me that the revocation of the bail bond is the first step toward the issuance of a warrant of arrest to put Espinosa behind bars and begin serving his prison sentence.

notice-of-hearing

NOTICE OF HEARING ON THE REVOCATION OF BAIL BOND SET FOR OCT. 4, 2016. (Photo credit: RMN 774)

Espinosa, also known as “Bondying” in the order of battle of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), was found guilty as an accomplice for frustrated murder when he and two others shot and wounded Mark Serra in Barangay Monica on November 24, 2002.

Espinosa was able to submit a paraffin test report showing that he was negative for nitrate powder burns during his trial and was meted out a lighter sentence of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day as prision mayor as maximum.

He was convicted way back in 2006 by then RTC Branch 31 judge Rene Hortillo.

Espinosa appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals. In a decision handed down on July 14, 2008, the Court of Appeals Eighteenth Division upheld the trial court’s ruling.

The case was elevated to the Supreme Court on a petition for review on certiorari. But the Supreme Court, in a Resolution dated May 30, 2011, denied the appeal for failure of petitioner Espinosa to substantially show any reversible error in the C.A. decision. The decision was declared “final and executory” by the Supreme Court on October 24, 2011.

Following judicial procedure, the case records were remanded to the Court of Appeals which in turn sent back the files to the lower court, Branch 31.

The markings on the documents show that RTC Branch 31 received the by registered mail on September 7, 2012. At the time, RTC Branch 31, along with all other courts of the RTC and Iloilo City MTC, were housed at the De Paul College campus in Jaro district as the Hall of Justice was undergoing refurbishing and repair.

The records affirming the conviction virtually vanished then, and it was only last July this year, during the conduct of an inventory of cases, that the same was noticed. Or so OIC Clerk of Court Rosenia Jover said.

For Antiquera, that explanation should not be accepted “hook, line and sinker.”

This discovery was made public only last Monday in The Daily Guardian and this blog, along with interviews with Aksyon Radyo Iloilo anchorman John Paul Tia and RMN 774 anchors Novie Guazo and Regan Arlos.

Indeed, the excuse is too shallow to be accepted. Almost every year, trial courts are mandated by the Supreme Court to conduct inventories of cases. This means RTC Branch 31 should have discovered this oversight in 2013 or 2014.

But why did it take four years?

drilon-with-kap-dabing

Monica barangay captain Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, poses with the most powerful man in Iloilo City — Senator Franklin Drilon.

There are speculations that somebody powerful may have intervened to “bury” the case records, and it was only after President Rodrigo Duterte came to power that it was resurrected.

 

Jing Jing Espinosa faces ‘delayed’ prison sentence

 

A conviction for frustrated murder on Monica barangay kagawad Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. had long been affirmed by both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but because of the topsy-turvy files at the temporary quarters of Regional Trial Court Branch 31 in September 2012 at the De Paul College campus, the case records were buried out of sight.

And it was only during an inventory of cases conducted by RTC Branch 31 that court personnel discovered the case folders remanded by the Court of Appeals for implementation of the decision handed down by then RTC Branch 31 presiding judge Rene Hortillo imposing a prison term for Espinosa.jing jing gets ready to rule iloilo city

“By the time we found the case folders containing the decision of the Court of Appeals and order from the Supreme Court affirming the conviction, Judge Hortillo had already retired, and we could not proceed with the case,” a court official told The Daily Guardian over the weekend.

The official said it was only recently that RTC Branch 34 Presiding Judge Yolanda Panaguiton-Gavino was designated as acting Presiding Judge, and she is expected to report to her assigned sala in Branch 31 today, Monday, September 26, 2016.

“This case will be among the first to be taken up with Judge Gavino,” the official said.

She added that under court rules and procedures, Judge Gavino will issue a warrant of arrest against Espinosa and his companion, Robinito “Bord” Malaga, for them to be put to jail and serve the penalty for frustrated murder.

the-daily-guardian-front-page-sept-26-2016Espinosa and Malaga were found guilty for shooting and seriously wounding Mark Serra, a resident of Barangay Monica, at around midnight on November 24, 2002. A third accused, Cris Rudy Balidiong, died during the pendency of the case.

Espinosa was meted a prison term of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day of prison mayor as maximum. Malaga was sentenced to a more severe prison term of eight years and one day of prision mayor as minimum to 14 years, 8 months and one day of reclusion temporal as maximum.

Case records show that Serra was walking towards home from a dance hall in Barangay Concepcion that night when he passed by a foot walk where he saw Balidiong, Espinosa and Malaga standing on both sides.

Just as Serra passed by the three, Balidiong just shot him without provocation.

Although wounded, Serra was able to run away, during which time he saw Espinosa and Malaga emerging from the shadows with hand guns and firing at him but missed.

Both Espinosa and Malaga gave chase, their guns firing. Serra was hit on the left shoulder and right side of his back, court records show.

It was only when Serra reached the house of his first cousin that his attackers fled.

Serra was rushed to the Iloilo Mission Hospital where he had to undergo an operation to save his life.

In convicting Espinosa and Malaga, then RTC Branch 31 Presiding Judge Hortillo said there was no way Serra could not have identified his attackers, as he lived in the barangay, and the area where the attack took place was lighted.

In his decision dated June 20, 2005, Hortillo swept aside the defense of denial put up by the accused and pronounced them guilty of frustrated murder.

However, Espinosa filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that the trial court failed to give weight to the PNP Crime Laboratory report showing that he was negative for powder burns.

In an amended order, Hortillo reduced the penalty for Espinosa as an accomplice in the crime.

Espinosa filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals which upheld the ruling of Hortillo on July 14, 2008. He then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court denied the appeal on May 30, 2011. An entry of judgment declaring the decision final and executory was made on October 24, 2011.

The markings on the case records show that these were sent by registered mail by the Court of Appeals on August 23, 2012 to RTC Branch 31 which had by then moved to its temporary sala at the De Paul College campus.

The Department of Public Works and Highways declared the Hall of Justice unsafe for occupancy and undertook refurbishing works to improve the structural integrity of the building.

The case records were marked “Received” by RTC Branch 31 on September 7, 2012.

The records also indicate that Espinosa’s counsel at the time, the late Atty. Felipe Macahilig, received a copy of the decisions at around the same time.

But the chaotic condition of the files at the temporary Hall of Justice led to the misplacement of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court records.

During the whole month of July this year, RTC Branch 31 personnel conducted an inventory of cases along with the rest of the judiciary and it was only then that the oversight on the enforcement of the decision was discovered.

All the courts and other agencies that held office at the Hall of Justice were ordered to evacuate from the Hall of Justice on February 25, 2012 after a strong earthquake caused cracks on its walls and floors.

This is the second prison sentence to be imposed on Espinosa.

In 1995, he was also convicted for the murder of a deaf-mute in Barangay Monica. He was sentence to serve an indeterminate sentence of 10 years and one day as minimum to 17 years and four months as maximum.

He was released from the Bilibid prison after serving the minimum prison sentence.

 

 

Disturb the wrong doers

Much of the energy and drive I have for exposing corruption and filing cases against those involved come from the sermons I hear from Sunday masses.

Last Sunday, we heard mass at the St. Clement’s Church in Lapaz presided over by Fr. Bing Simacio and I particularly found strength in his sermon on the Gospel from Luke 12:49-53. He spoke about the seeming contradiction between the statements of Jesus Christ about peace. In the Gospel, Jesus said: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Fr. Simacio put this in the context of what is happening in our society nowadays, especially with the problem on corruption and illegal drugs. Peace is not about avoiding conflict when it means just keeping quiet about the wrongs that happen around us. We can only achieve genuine peace with God if we give testimony to His Words. We lose that opportunity when we “preserve peace” by just letting wrongs go unchallenged.

“Disturb the wrongdoers,” Fr. Simacio said. We fulfill God’s mission for us by helping expose the corrupt and confront them about what they are doing.

Those words gave them another dose of strength and energy. I came from Church with renewed sense of purpose and felt reinforced. This is the same feeling I always get when I listen to the sermons of Fr. Boboy Palencia at the Sto. Niño Sur Mission Chapel at SM Delgado.

An enemy from within

There’s no mistaking the fact that the battle against illegal drugs is as difficult as repulsing a foreign invader, or even harder.
That’s because the enemy is hard to detect. The pusher is not just the street pug that was the stereotype in the past. Now even a public school teacher has been caught selling drugs. Barangay officials, too, have been nabbed in buy-bust operations. They are like the Vietcong whom the Americans had to fight half a century ago in the ricefields of Vietnam: by day ordinary farmers, by night fierce warriors.
We have to accept the reality that this battle can be waged in a rule of law setting. As we have seen time and again, drug lords and pushers can afford the best legal minds to defend them in court. And even in jail, they continue to run the illegal drugs trade with impunity.
For this alone, I am prepared to see President Duterte do it with brute force. Of course, he just has to be cautioned not to waste human lives. Just the same, the authorities should not hesitate to use force when it is deemed necessary.

Mabilog is unrepentant about drug lord liaisons

The inclusion of Jed Patrick E. Mabilog among the local chief executives revealed by no less than President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte as a drug lord protector didn’t come to most Ilonggos as a surprise. It was public knowledge for the last six years. The local media has been vocal about it. One of the known drug lords, Jing Jing Espinosa, even liked to post pictures of him and Mabilog on his social media account.

Still, the announcement when it came was cataclysmic. It shook the entire Iloilo City! For those who have known about it for a long time, it was a moment of liberation, and celebration. For critics of Mabilog, it was vindication. But there are still legions of loyal political supporters of Mabilog who insisted that Mabilog is clean.

The day after President Duterte revealed the names in a midnight speech, barangay captains in Iloilo City — supposedly acting upon the instructions of Mabilog — organized a small rally to manifest their support for him. In the Iloilo City Council, Mabilog’s political allies passed a resolution expressing their unwavering support for his leadership and integrity.

In the days following the announcement, a blog post on his magnificent “White House” mansion on the banks of the Iloilo River went viral and triggered a frenzy of criticism and debate on the source of his new-found wealth. Quite a number of professionals working in the United States and Canada questioned the capability of Mrs. Ma. Victoria T. Mabilog to earn the kind of money to be able to build the mansion. The house is believed to be worth not less than P50 million.

While he was visibly stressed from the scandal that engulfed him, Mabilog reported for work on Wednesday, August 10. And the first thing he did was hold a press conference in which he talked about, among others, his friendship with Melvin Odicta and Jing Jing Espinosa, both identified by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as drug group leaders in Iloilo City.

Mabilog press conference

Photo credit: Nestor Burgos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mabilog insisted there was nothing wrong with his association with Odicta and Espinosa.

He said he visited the house of Odicta during a barangay fiesta. Odicta’s brother is the barangay captain, and Mabilog said it was part of his constituency work to honor an invitation to the drug lord’s house for a fiesta. When Odicta’s mother died, Mabilog also visited the fortress-like compound to pay his respects. He consoles with constituents during their time of grief, he said, and Odicta, also known as “Dragon”, is no exception.

Far from being repentant about his closeness with Jing Jing Espinosa, Mabilog told both Iloilo and Manila media it was also part of his constituency work. Espinosa happens to be a barangay kagawad of Barangay Monica and his wife, Keith, is the barangay captain. He claims he gets invited to the barangay fiesta of Monica and other events, and he doesn’t see anything wrong going there and be photographed with Jing Jing. In a number of photographs, Mabilog is seen with Jing Jing while surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards.

But one thing that Mabilog was careful to avoid was mention he had knowledge both Odicta and Espinosa were known drug lords. The way he talked, he behaved as if the two were ordinary constituents with no known record in the illegal drugs trade. He also didn’t dwell into why he seemed to enjoy more time with them, especially in the house of Jing Jing, who is also his “kumpadre”.

Apparently, Mabilog didn’t care about the consequences of his public liaisons with known drug lords. In the past, Mabilog would often respond arrogantly to questons about his liaisons with Espinosa. There was an instance when he retorted to media, “Nonsense”, when it was suggested that his behavior was improper. Jing Jing, he said, didn’t need to submit an NBI clearance to him to become his friend.

Now that he is caught in this whirlpool of scandal, Mabilog will have nobody else to blame but himself. His problems have only been aggravated by disclosures that 21 policemen were assigned to him as bodyguards. For a city with an undermanned Police Department, the detachment of 21 policemen to secure the safety of Mabilog has drawn vicious criticism from media and the public.

It also doesn’t help Mabilog that he has lived lavishly and extravagantly. His “White House” mansion is now considered a monument of corruption. His fleet of expensive vehicles will also be taken into account as a lifestyle check is being done on him.

For many, his sudden rise to wealth couldn’t have come from legitimate income. There’s strong suspicion that the “White House” came from kickbacks and protection money from the drug lords.

Mabilog: no need to get NBI clearance for drug lord to be his friend

As early as 2012, there have been media criticism about the closeness of reputed drug lord Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. and City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog.

But Mabilog simply shrugged off such criticism. He never felt it was wrong for him to be photographed with Jing Jing Espinosa, who boasted about his closeness to the local chief executive in his social media account back then.

This newspaper front page speaks volumes of how Mabilog protected the drug lords of Iloilo City.

 

13nov_1 front

Portent of things to come?

A two-van convoy that was on the way to the Iloilo Airport to fetch Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog figured in a multiple-vehicle collision on the national highway in Pavia, Iloilo on Sunday afternoon, resulting in injuries to his bodyguards and damage to the vehicles involved.

Aksyon Radyo Iloilo reported that the accident happened when a jeepney bound for Sta. Barbara, Iloilo stopped to discharge passengers along the Benigno Aquino Jr. Ave. in Barangay Ungka II, Pavia. The lead van in the Mabilog convoy smashed into tail of the jeepney. A split-second later, the second van rammed into the rear of the first. It didn’t end there. A water tanker was unable to stop in time due to defective brakes; it plowed into the back of the second van. The impact of the collision drove both Mabilog’s vehicles forward to hit the jeepney once again. They were sandwiched.

Luckily, Mabilog’s bodyguards suffered only aching bodies as a result of the collision. Both his vans were heavily damaged.

Interestingly, one of his bodyguards hurt in the accident was surnamed “Altas”. This raised speculations that the person might be related to PDEA-identified drug lord Melvin Odicta, also known as “Dragon”. Odicta has a brother-in-law surnamed “Altas”.

The accident quickly triggered a wave of nasty comments from Ilonggos. “It’s karma,” said Joe Marie Agriam, publisher of Cream Magazine and a regional officer of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI). Others remarked that it’s a warning for Mabilog, who is tagged as a drug protector, to repent. I called it a “portent of things to come.”

What most people didn’t see here was the involvement of a water tanker in the accident.

Only recently, Mabilog figured in a controversy over the anomalous contract he awarded to a water refilling station to supply potable water to constituents in Iloilo City hard-hit by the long drought from March to May this year.

That a water tanker plowed into Mabilog’s vehicles could be viewed as a divine message for him. He tried to use the water crisis as a vehicle for corruption. On Sunday, a water tanker seems to have given Mabilog a big spanking with the collision.