Will wonders never cease? Just when one thinks that the judiciary is completely under the thumb of the executive, one gets zapped by the news that a Regional Trial Court judge has in effect told the justice secretary, his prosecutors, and the National Bureau of Investigation where to get off.
That is what Judge Richard A. Paradeza did, sans the legal verbiage, as presiding judge of RTC Branch 72 in Olongapo City.
He granted the motion to quash the charge against defendant Ronnel A. Mas of inciting to sedition, which arose from Mas tweeting “I will give 50 million reward kung sinong makakapatay kay Duterte, #NoToABSCBNShutDown.” The case, ruled Judge Paradeza, is considered “DISMISSED.”
Reader, you’ve got to admit that this judge has, well, balls, taking on the executive like that. How many times has that happened the past four years? Only twice, if my recollection is correct.
Of course, the Paradeza decision was dotted with sentences to soften the blow, like, “The Court finds the text posted… despicable and provocative,” and “the act of the NBI in conducting immediate investigation… is laudable and commendable.” Also “the NBI operatives inadvertently committed some lapses along the way.”
But the blow was there. And it resonates very loudly under present circumstances, with the anti-terrorism bill hanging over our heads.
In Judge Paradeza’s judgment,
1) The warrantless arrest conducted by the NBI was illegal. Judge Paradeza emphasized that this was the ruling of the inquest prosecutor herself, because the arrest did not fall under the scope of valid warrantless arrests under some rule (113) of the Rules of Court.
2) But the inquest prosecutor also argued that the defect was “cured” by the subsequent acts of Mas, when he admitted extrajudicially before the media that he owned the Twitter account and had posted the text. Here, the good judge disagreed. The illegality of the arrest can only be cured if the accused waived objection thereto, which Mas did not do, because he came before Judge Paradeza precisely to object to the arraignment.
Moreover, Judge Paradeza pointed out, there was NOTHING in the records of the case presented by the prosecution to show that there was such an extrajudicial admission. Not only that: There was no mention of this admission in the complaint made by the NBI to the inquest prosecutor. I guess this is what he meant by “the NBI inadvertently committed some lapses.”
But, even if there was some record, it would still not be acceptable, because even extrajudicial confessions must conform to constitutional requirements (e.g., presence of counsel, etc.).
To me, Judge Paradeza’s most telling statement was: “Even the worst criminals have constitutional rights, too. In identifying or arresting the suspect/s, their constitutional rights should be recognized and respected.” Oops, Judge. Isn’t that stepping on President Duterte’s toes? Didn’t he say that drug users are no longer human?
Who is Judge Paradeza? I tried googling him, calling his office (according to the operator, his number, and of all the RTCs in Olongapo, were “not yet in service”), and finally called unimpeachable sources. Here’s what I found.
He is “maayos.” And gets himself into trouble because of this. Example: When an MTC judge was being investigated for gross dereliction of duty, Judge Paradeza did not hesitate to execute an affidavit that the MTC judge had tried to bribe him for a favorable decision. This you can google. The MTC judge was dismissed, which did not sit well with the “compañeros.” He does not play along.
He inhibited himself from a case at the request of one of the parties, if only to ensure that there would be no accusations of bias later on.
An administrative case was brought up against him in the Supreme Court sometime in 2016. The charge: a P1-million extortion try. I have no idea what happened, but since he is still a judge, the Supreme Court must have ruled in his favor.
Finally, Reader, please note: His decisions are speedy. It’s been barely a month since this case was brought up, and already, he has quashed and dismissed the case. He has apparently handled other cases with similar speed. Contrast this with Sen. Leila de Lima’s cases, still going along after three years, and she hasn’t been granted bail.
Conclusion: Judge Paradeza is a refreshing example of an independent judiciary. Unfortunately, he is in the minority. But there is still hope. Judges in the De Lima cases, take note, please.
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