Gordon to summon judge for failing to order destruction of 890 kilos of shabu

Camille Elemia
Gordon to summon judge for failing to order destruction of 890 kilos of shabu
'Mandatory 'yun eh. He's violating the law. In fact, the Supreme Court should file charges against him,' says Senator Richard Gordon on San Juan City Regional Trial Court Judge Jovencio Gascon

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon will summon San Juan City Regional Trial Court Judge Jovencio Gascon to the next Senate hearing to explain why he failed to order the destruction of 890 kilos of shabu seized in December 2016.

The issue was brought up on Tuesday, September 19, during a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the 604 kilos of shabu smuggled from China, worth P6.4 billion. (READ: PDEA files complaint vs Faeldon, 11 others over smuggled shabu)

Senators were surprised to find out that the confiscated 890 kilos have not yet been destroyed after 10 months in government custody. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, citing Republic Act (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, said the illegal drugs should have been destroyed at least 6 days after confiscation.

“Within 24 hours upon confiscation of illegal drugs, the same should be submitted to PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) for qualitative examination. Result should be issued within 24 hours. The court, within 72 hours, shall conduct ocular inspection and, through the PDEA, within 24 hours, they shall proceed with the destruction,” Lacson said.

Of the 890 kilos seized, only 500 kilos are with the PDEA as the judge has yet to complete an ocular inspection. The rest is with the National Bureau of Investigation.

Gordon, committee chairman, then asked if the judge handling the case does not know the law.

“The law does not allow the court to play here. It shall, within 24 hours, conduct [an] ocular inspection. Is there anything that SOJ (Secretary of Justice) should do? If I were the SOJ, I would put this judge under investigation,” he said.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he already raised the issue with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when they met at a conference in Cebu on August 20.

“Yes, I’ve been wondering why this shabu was not yet destroyed. As a matter of fact, during our last conference with CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno in Cebu, I raised this matter with her and I complained why it was taking so long for the judge to order the destruction of shabu,” he said.

Gordon then asked Aguirre to submit an affidavit of the conversation so he could use it to subpoena Gascon for “sitting on a case.” He also said he would “institute a constitutional crisis” between the legislative and the judiciary for the latter’s non-action on the “biggest drug haul.”

“So that I can call this judge and institute a constitutional crisis, because they are breaking the law. You have judges that issue search warrants on people who are in jail and eventually assassinated. Now you have already told the Chief Justice that this judge is in control of 900 kilos of shabu and he has not done [anything], nothing. I will not tolerate that,” Gordon said.

The senator added that the judge should be brought before the Office of the Ombudsman for not doing his job. But Aguirre said they were told that the judge is on medical leave.

“Ang sabi sa amin talagang masama ang lagay ng kalusugan ng judge (We were told that the judge is really in poor health),” Aguirre told reporters after the interview.

Checking on delay

After the hearing, Gordon told reporters he would allow Gascon to be excused if he is indeed sick.

But he said he would still subpoena the judge through the Court Administrator so the High Court would know the gravity of the problem.

“If he’s really sick, he will really be excused. I’m not unreasonable. Ang importante sa ‘kin ay malaman ng Korte Suprema na ‘yung huwes dine-delay ‘yung kaso (What’s important for me is for the Supreme Court to know that the judge is delaying the case). Ten months, ‘di ba tayo nagugulat dito (aren’t we getting surprised by this?)” Gordon said in an interview after the hearing.

The senator also urged the High Court to file charges against Gascon for violating RA 9165. He said the SC should have replaced the judge if they knew he would not be able to fulfill his duties.

Problema nila ‘yun, dapat ipalipat nila ‘yung judge (That’s their problem, they should have reassigned the judge). They can change the judge. If the judge is not available and sick, they can change the judge but the judge has no business delaying the proceedings because mandatory sinasabi do’n [sa batas] (the law states the destruction of the drugs is mandatory),” Gordon said in an interview after the hearing.

“Mandatory ‘yun eh (That’s mandatory). He’s violating the law. In fact, the Supreme Court should file charges against him. Ten months dine-delay, eh kung mawala ang ebidensya (what if the evidence gets lost because the case is being delayed)?” he added.

Gordon has set the next hearing on Monday, September 25, but said it would likely focus on the alleged corruption in the Bureau of Customs, following the privilege speech of Senator Panfilo Lacson on the so-called “tara” system. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com