Killing of Ilocos Sur judge likely due to drug cases – CJ Peralta

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The ambush of Ilocos Sur court Judge Mario Bañez is likely due to drug-related cases pending before his branch, Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta says.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8) — The killing of a judge in Ilocos Sur likely stemmed from drug-related cases pending in his court, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said Friday.

He said the ambush of Judge Mario Bañez, who runs the Tagudin, Ilocos Sur Regional Trial Court Branch 25, may have been linked to pending cases involving drugs rather than a recent acquittal of an activist in a separate case.

"Based from the papers, he acquitted a drug lord and that he received death threats because of drugs. That's what we heard," Peralta said in a media briefing on Friday.

Bañez was shot dead on Tuesday night in Barangay Mameltac, San Fernando City in nearby La Union. He was on his way home when an unidentified man fired shots at his car. Bañez was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival. The suspect remains at large.

Last month, Bañez reportedly acquitted Rachel Mariano, Community Health Service and Training in the Cordillera Region coordinator, for allegedly masterminding an ambush on soldiers.

"I think that's not (the reason), what they are investigating is the drugs. One (drug case) was acquitted, the other one was about to be terminated in court. So they are concentrating on the drug cases," Peralta said about ongoing investigations.

Peralta also floated the proposal to give the SC the authority to conduct its own investigations on the killing of court personnel and file cases against perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the chief justice said the high court is in the middle of investigating members of the Judiciary tagged in illegal drug trade, dubbed as "narco-judges" in a list from Malacañang. Thirteen judges and 10 prosecutors are apparently involved.

READ: Supreme Court to investigate judges allegedly linked to drug trade

"We are investigating them, and then I think there are arelady recommendations submitted to the court En Banc. In due time, we will be coming out with some resolutions on some alleged narco-judges," Peralta said.

Peralta, who was then associate justice, had been tasked to coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for a fact-finding and administrative probe on the involvement of judges in illegal drugs.