By JEFFREY G. DAMICOG
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the cases against the Parojinog siblings to Metro Manila from Ozamiz City where their family continue to remain a threat.
Aguirre made the request after Department of Justice (DJ) prosecutors filed criminal charges earlier this month before the Ozamiz City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez and her brother, Reynaldo Parojinog Jr. The cases were raffled off to the Ozamiz City Branches 15 and 35.
“I respectfully request and implore your good office that the trial of these cases be immediately transferred from the Regional Trial Court of Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental, Branch 15 and Branch 35, to the National Capital Judicial Region, preferably the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,” read Aguirre’s letter addressed to SC Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The siblings were arrested during the simultaneous operations conducted by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) last July 30.
The raids resulted in the deaths of 15 people including their father, Ozamis City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr.; their mother, Susan; and the mayor’s brother, Misamis Occidental provincial board member Octavio Parojinog.
Princess was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and possession of dangerous drugs.
Her brother was charged with three counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, possession of illegal drugs, and illegal possession of explosives.
In spite of the Parojinog patriarch’s death, the DoJ chief expressed concerns that their family remains a threat against the prosecution of the Princess and Reynaldo Jr.
“I would like to stress that notwithstanding the death of Mayor Parojinog, their clout should not be underestimated,” Aguirre said.
“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,” he explained.
Since the siblings are high-risk detainees, the DoJ chief noted that following their arrest “the PNP-CIDG flew them to Manila for the conduct of inquest proceedings.”
“The inquest of both accused were held at the PNP Custodial Center (PNPCC) in Camp Crame, Quezon City to avert any possible risks against the police escorts and to the accused themselves. As of this writing, both accused are still held at the PNPCC, a secure and fortified detention facility,” he said.
Aguirre also cited “there are news reports that the presiding judges of both branches are inclined to inhibit from trying the cases, stating that the trial against the accused should be held in ‘a neutral place’ not in Ozamiz.”
“In addition, not only are the judges in Ozamiz City hesitant to try the case 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 courts,” he lamented.