Cagayan de Oro judge survives 2nd slay try in a month
CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge survived a second attempt on his life in just a month in this city on Thursday, May 19.
Judge Emmanuel Pasal of RTC Branch 38 in Cagayan de Oro City was with his driver and two police escorts on their way to Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, when they were ambushed in Carmen Hill, Barangay Puerto.
Cagayan de Oro Police Director Faro Antonio Olaguera said the ambush took place at the steepest U-Turn part of the road going to upper Puerto.
Carmen Hill is a 4-kilometer uphill road, part of the Sayre Highway that connects the Cagayan de Oro to Bukidnon province.
Olaguera said the 4 assailants were waiting for the vehicle to pass by. “There were witnesses at the site. They said that the suspects were jogging around, waiting, while getaway motorcycles lie in wait,” he added.
Olaguera said police have begun manhunt operations for the 4 suspects.
Pasal’s police escorts – Police Officer 1 Ritchie Labiano and Police Officer 1 Jude Lyndon Mercado – were not able to fire back from inside Pasal’s Suzuki Jimny.
The police officers had been providing security escort for Pasal for over a month now.
The visibly shaken Pasal said he suspected the attempts on his life were connected to his drug cases at RTC Branch 10 in Malaybalay, where he is the officer-in-charge presiding judge.
“I know this has got something to do with the drug cases in Malaybalay. There is no other angle into this,” Pasal said, but declined to name who he suspects to be behind the incidents.
Pasal said he would ask that the cases be transferred from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro.
The first attempt on his life was on April 17, at the Shuttle Square in Barangay Gusa, also in Cagayan de Oro. At the time, he was alone and on his way home after presiding a hearing in Malaybalay. Pasal has had police surveillance on his home since then.
Olaguera said Pasal has been given 24-hour police protection from his home to his work, and other forms of protection.
SC to police: Ensure safety of trial judges
The Supreme Court said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno ordered security measures to protect Pasal and other judges in a similar situation. (READ: Supreme Court wants taks force created to address judge killings)
"This would include transferring the venue of the case, which Judge Pasal suspects as being the cause of the two attempts on his life, from the RTC of Malaybalay, Bukidnon to the RTC of Cebu. The Chief Justice has already directed the Court Administrator to take the appropriate steps to carry this out," SC spokesperson Theodore Te said in a statement on Friday, May 20.
Te said that the High Court is "very concerned about the security of the trial judges nationwide" and called on authorities "to ensure that the members of the judiciary are kept secure so that they discharge their duties and functions independently, impartially, and without favor or fear."
Bukidnon, in particular, is hounded by the drug menace. According to regional state prosecutor Jaime Umpa, 94.5% of the cities and municipalities in the province have illegal drug problems.
In a province-wide illegal drug refresher course in February 2015, data showed that out of 464 barangays in the province, 114 are affected by illegal drugs.
In 2015, Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri fired 12 town police chiefs for their poor performance in combating the drug menace and suspected receipt of drug protection money. – Rappler.com