MANILA, Philippines — The absence of a judge in Sulu, which is on lockdown to prevent the entry of a new coronavirus strain detected in Sabah, could have caused the delay in the issuance of arrest warrants for nine police officers tagged in the killing of four soldiers last year, according to Supreme Court court administrator Midas Marquez.
Marquez said no judge handled the four counts of murder and planting of evidence charges filed against Senior M/Sgt. Abdelzhimar Padjiri, M/Sgt. Hannie Baddiri, S/Sgts. Iskandar Susulan and Eniskar Sappal, Cpl. Sulki Andaki and Pat. Moh Nur Pasani of the Jolo police and S/Sgt. Almudzrin Hadjaruddin, Pat. Alkajal Mandangan and Rajiv Putalan of the Sulu drug enforcement unit.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the charges on Jan. 4 in connection with the fatal shooting of Maj. Marvin Indammog, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Jaime Velasco Jr. and Cpl. Abdal Asula.
Marquez said Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta yesterday issued an administrative order designating Alsad Hailil Alfad Jr., presiding judge of Siasi, Sulu Regional Trial Court Branch 25, as acting judge of RTC Branches 3 and 4 of Jolo and Paran, respectively.
Peralta said Alfad would “take cognizance of all urgent matters pending in the said court in addition to the regular duties in his own court effective immediately and continue until the return of Judges (Grace) Tillah and (Shene Chiong) Cañete or until further orders from the court. ”
“Judge Alfad Jr. shall be entitled to additional expense allowance and judicial incentive allowance,” the order added.
Marquez said the cases filed against the nine police officers was raffled to a court in Sulu, but the judge was unable to decide if arrest warrants should be issued because of the lockdown.
With no arrest warrants, the Philippine National Police (PNP) released the accused to their families, saying it has no legal basis to detain them.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had earlier said the nine were released from PNP custody despite the request of the DOJ to hold them until the arrest warrants were issued.
Guevarra directed the prosecutors to file an urgent motion in court for the issuance of a hold-departure order to prevent the suspects from leaving the country.