BALER, Aurora—The wheels of justice are grinding ever so slowly in this province, with the trial on last year’s high-profile killing of a judge in this capital town stalled by the lack of prosecutors and lawyers which has left a backlog of 1,000 cases.
Provincial Prosecutor Jobert Reyes complained that the lack of prosecutors and trial lawyers is taking its toll on the cases, including that of murdered Regional Trial Court Branch 91 Judge Erwin Alaba.
“We only have four prosecutors handling cases in the entire province of eight municipalities,” Reyes said.
He said that before he entered the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, there was only one prosecutor – Phanie Rose Aragon-Saez. The number later increased to four with his assumption of the top post and the addition of prosecutors Evalor Paulo and Seychelles Doringo who like him came from the public attorney’s office.
Reyes said that to exacerbate the situation, the entire province has less than 10 trial lawyers, some of whom opted to serve the government and entered politics.
Aside from the four prosecutors who are lawyers themselves, the other lawyers are Raul Gala-gala of Surigao who is with the PAO, Lea Baccay of Taguig and Angel Guzman of this capital town.
Two young lawyers—Sharon Ylanan and Christian Noveras—were lost to the government and politics. Ylanan has assumed the post of chief of the Register of Deeds while Noveras, son of Gov. Gerardo Noveras, ran for board member and won in last May’s elections.
Last April, the Philippine National Police in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija stopped its manhunt for Alaba’s killer following a fruitless search and returned to RTC Branch 90 Judge Maximo Ancheta the warrant of arrest he earlier issued.
The court issued the warrant for the arrest of prime suspect Eugenio Pingol after reports said he was in Barangay Tabuating in San Leonardo.
Pingol and several John Does were tagged in an information for murder and frustrated murder filed before the court by Aragon-Saez.
Alaba and his wife Margarita just arrived at the compound aboard his Mitsubishi Montero at around 2 p.m. of September 1 last year when Pingol, armed with a 45-caliber pistol, inserted the muzzle of his gun at the car’s window and shot them.
Alaba died from a lone bullet wound in the chest. Margarita sustained a gunshot wound in the left arm.
The court issued the warrant in order to proceed with the trial of the murder and frustrated murder cases because under existing jurisprudence the accused could not be tried in absentia unless the court assumed jurisdiction over him.
Under the law, the accused should be arrested first and arraigned before he could be the subject of a trial.