This is not too surprising that the judge backed out of the case but obviously this will not be allowed very often or no judges would ever try the Ampatuans and their goon squads. This does give Arroyo some excuse for declaring martial law in the Ampatuan's home province since no judge who issued warrants for searches of Ampatuan holdings would have a very long life expectancy! This is from the Tribune (Manila)
Puno: No inhibiting in massacre case
By Benjamin B. Pulta
With Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 84 Judge Luisito Cortez backing out of the raffled multiple murder case on account of “personal security,” a new judge will be handling the multiple murder cases against the primary suspects in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre after the court allowed Judge Cortez to inhibit in the case.
Supreme Court deputy spokesman Gleo Guerra said Chief Justice Reynato Puno, through Court Administrator Jose Perez, has ordered the case re-raffled to another QC RTC judge.
Puno said full protection will be provided the judge who will be trying the Maguindanao massacre case.
“The Court allowed Judge Cortez to inhibit from handling the case, but it doesn’t mean that the Court accepted his reasons for inhibiting. It only means that the Court allowed the inhibition in the best interest of justice and so that the case would move forward,” Guerra said.
She added that there is also a possibility of the high court looking into administrative liability of the judge for refusing to accept the case assigned to him.
Puno also told the judges during the meeting that there would no longer be immediate inhibition allowed for the next judge who will be picked to handle the case.
Cortez cited security reasons in inhibiting himself from the murder case against Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and other accused and was quoted in radio reports saying he fears for the safety of his family and staff. “What is glory without a family?”, he said.
The judge also cited another case he is handling the murder case filed against former Abra Gov. Vicente Valera for the killing of Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin and his bodyguard in 2006.
Cortez recalled his experience of surviving an ambush try when he was a still a presiding judge in Bulacan province.
This inhibition of Cortez reportedly has irked Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.
Devanadera, who earlier sought the transfer of the case after complaining about the inactivity of courts in the province said the judge should look for another job if the reason for his inhibition was just fear of the powerful Ampatuan clan that is being tagged in the massacre.
“If I were him (Judge Cortez), I would look for another job because I easily get frightened. That is unacceptable,” she said in a phone interview.
She stressed that the inhibition of Judge Cortez only proved her claim that courts covering Maguindanao were not functioning well in handling the massacre case.
“This is what I mean. There is really problem with the courts. This is in Manila already, so you can imagine how judges in the province felt about this case,” she argued.
Devanadera said she “somehow expected” the refusal of a judge to accept the massacre case, but she remains positive that another one will accept it and “stand up for justice.”
She stressed that security concerns of judges and even prosecutors in sensitive cases can be properly addressed by the government. What I’m trying to say is that this kind of risk is already part of our job. That’s why I was hoping that Judge Cortez would still reconsider his decision to inhibit,” she explained.
Still, she thanked the SC for “swift action” on the inhibition of Judge Cortez.
She added that she would not file an administrative complaint against the judge and will just leave the issue up to the SC.
Malacañang also yesterday asked the high court to immediately look into the pressing drawback that is currently hampering the country’s criminal justice system.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde seized on Judge Cortez’ reason as proof that Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1959 in that part of Mindanao last Dec. 4 was the right move.
“This is the responsibility of the judiciary so we are calling upon the judiciary to do what it needs to do as the executive has been doing what it needs to be done. But this is something worth mentioning, something dramatic is what happened to the judge of Quezon City,” Remonde said.
He also stressed that this issue should serve as eye-opener for the critics and other lawmakers who are strongly against President Aquino’s declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao considering the terror being inflicted by the Ampatuans on those who dare to cross them, even reaching Metro Manila.
“I think this is something that should open the eyes of all skeptics in Metro Manila. Remember we told you one of the reasons for the declaration of Martial Law is that we couldn’t find a single judge that could issue search warrants and warrants of arrest (against the suspects) because of fear but you didn’t believe,” Remonde said in a chance interview at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2, prior to his departure for Copenhagen, Denmark to join President Arroyo’s delegation.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, for his part said that the inhibition of the judge has not caused disappointment on the part of the executive branch.