The Court of Appeals has ordered Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to explain the suspension of Manila City Prosecutor Edward Togonon for not releasing three people from police custody despite the dismissal of the charges against them.
In a resolution dated July 5, the CA’s Fifth Division directed Aguirre to answer the petition filed by Togonon questioning his 90-day suspension order.
The appellate court gave the Justice secretary 10 days from receipt of notice to comply with the order and file his comment.
The controversy arose after Aguirre suspended Togonon last month for not following his Department Circular No. 4, which allows a respondent in cases involving violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act to walk out of detention even if the case is pending for automatic review before the DOJ.
The DOJ chief designated Alexander Ramos, director of the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program and a fraternity brother of Aguirre and President Rodrigo Duterte in San Beda College of Law-based Lex Talionis Fraternitas, as officer-in-charge of the Manila prosecutor’s office.
Togonon was suspended after an inmate, 61-year-old Api Ang, died due to an illness while in custody of the Manila Police District despite the dismissal of the drug raps against him and his three companions.
Ang and three other suspects—Betty Chan, Luz Chan and Henry Go Bernales—were arrested on Nov. 21, 2016 after authorities conducted a raid on Ang’s unit at Good Life Hotel in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Seized from the raid were illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and ammunition.
Records showed that Ang was charged for possession of illegal drugs and violation of the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition (Republic Act 10591). The cases were filed with the Manila Regional Trial Court on Feb. 9, two months before his death due to acute coronary syndrome. The complaints for violation of RA 9165, RA 10591 and obstruction of justice against Betty Chan, Luz Chan, and Bernales were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.