Philippine judiciary

Controversial ex-justice Pizarro, last seen in October, found dead

Lian Buan

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(UPDATED) A dead body found in Tarlac matches retired Court of Appeals justice Normandie Pizarro's DNA by 99.9%, says the NBI

Retired Court of Appeals (CA) justice Normandie Pizarro was confirmed dead by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after a recovered body in Tarlac matched the DNA of the controversial magistrate.

The NBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed the death on Monday, December 21.

“Yes, based on DNA test results,” said Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay in a message to reporters Monday evening.

“Confirmed by NBI Forensic, DNA match 99.99%,” NBI Director Eric Distor also told reporters in a text message.

Sugay said Pizarro was “last seen at a casino in Clark last October 23.”

“His car, an early model Honda Accord, was later on discovered somewhere in San Simon, Pampanga. He last spoke with one of his sons on October 23 at around 11:30 to 12 noon,” Sugay said.

The body was found in Capas, Tarlac, on October 30, said NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said “the NBI is focusing on 4 persons of interest,” and that “one of them is willing to divulge what he knows.”

No other details were disclosed yet, including the official cause of death.

Asked if it could be called a case of abduction and killing, Guevarra said it would be “quite premature, though highly possible.”

“The NBI is looking at all possible angles, and Justice Pizarro’s  previous work in the Court of Appeals is surely one of them,” Guevarra said on Tuesday, December 22.

In April 2018, when Pizarro was already retired, the Supreme Court (SC) en banc found the justice guilty of conduct unbecoming of a member of the judiciary over instances of gambling in a casino, and fined him P100,000.

In the records of that case, Pizarro told the Supreme Court that he had terminal cancer and gambling was just “an indiscretion of a dying man.”

Pizarro retired February 2018, a year ahead of his mandatory retirement.

He left the CA with a controversial acquittal of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes in the Gerry Ortega murder case. The acquittal had been reversed and the murder charge against Reyes had been revived by a different set of CA justices.

The Joel Reyes acquittal was a decision called “preposterous and premature” by his co-justices, and one that “stinks,” according to Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Pizarro also penned the ruling which acquitted Janet Lim Napoles in her serious illegal detention case in May 2017.

Pizarro was the ponencia of the ruling that nullified a Hawaii court decision which had granted $2 billion worth of damages to Martial Law victims.

Pizarro told the SC en banc in the casino case that it was unfair to accuse him of corruption when “all of the few administrative cases filed against him did not involve corruption; and that he was absolved in all.” –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.