Manila, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has requested the Supreme Court (SC) to allow a transfer of trial venue from Ozamiz City to Quezon City for the drugs and illegal firearms charges of Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog and brother Reynaldo Jr.
"The fact that they have been in power in Ozamiz City for so long is a clear indication that they have the capacity to influence, if not threaten the prosecution witnesses, the judges and the prosecutors and subvert the criminal proceedings in Ozamiz City in their favor," Aguirre said in his letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dated August 17 and released to media on Monday, August 28.
The Parojinog siblings are facing charges of illegal possession of drugs and firearms while Reynaldo Jr faces additional charges of illegal possession of explosives. These charges are based on the seized evidence from when the police raided their house on July 30, where their father Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, their mother Susan and 13 others were killed.
Aguirre wants that the cases be transferred from Ozamiz City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to Quezon City RTC.
"Not only are the judges in Ozamiz City hesitant to try the cases in their sala, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Ozamiz City has likewise expressed concern and fear of threats in the event that they will be tasked to prosecute the cases in the Ozamiz City," Aguirre said.
Aguirre writes to Sereno to request that the Parojinogs drugs case be transferred from Ozamiz to QC RTC @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/QkcUlXwhO7 — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) August 28, 2017
Article VIII of the Constitution allows a transfer of trial venue "to avoid a miscarriage of justice." (READ: Parojinog siblings test negative for drugs)
Aguirre said that if the cases are transferred to Quezon City, the witnesses will be provided with additional security personnel. There will be lesser cost too, said Aguirre, if the Parojinogs are escorted within Metro Manila every hearing instead of flying them out to Ozamiz.
The Parojinog siblings are detained inside Camp Crame, and they prefer to stay there instead of a jail in Ozamiz according to their lawyer Ferdinand Topacio. (READ: The Parojinogs and the tangled webs they wove)
The Ozamiz City RTC, however, has not yet issued a commitment order to determine their detention place. The siblings have also not been arraigned yet.
The charges were filed by state prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ), who also ruled that the Parojinogs' detention inside Camp Crame was not illegal. The same panel of prosecutors also ruled that the arrest was valid.
"The arrest of the respondents was valid since the same was incidental to the lawful service of a valid search warrant," said the panel's resolution.
DOJ prosecutors explained that even though the search warrant was for firearms and ammunition, the police were not precluded from seizing other unlawful items. The police team found drugs and drug paraphernalia. – Rappler.com