Tuesday, December 6, 2016

RTC Judge Lelu airs side on search warrant delay issue

by Ramil Soliveres

VIRAC, Catanduanes 12/6/16 – Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Lelu P. Contreras has vehemently denied the controversies surrounding her issuance of a search warrant for the mega shabu laboratory in Barangay Palta Small here.

In an interview on radio program Peryodiko sa Radyo over the weekend, she maintained that the release of the search warrant was not delayed.

Judge Lelu Contreras (left) explains her side on the alleged delay of the search warrant for the mega shabu laboratory in Virac, Catanduanes in an interview by Ramil Soliveres (right). 
Moreover, the same was not the reason why the alleged operator of the shabu lab, Jayson Uy, was able to escape.

It would be recalled that the raiding team earlier stated that before their team entered said laboratory, they had already applied for a search warrant from the court.

In the interview, Contreras narrated: “It was Friday afternoon of November 25 when I got a message from PCI Charles de Leon, the commander of the PPSC asking me if he can give me a call. I told him I was in a hearing. He replied he will communicate later.”

After the hearing, she said she herself sent a message to De Leon to tell him she was going to drop by at the Provincial Police Office.

“I met De Leon and other Police Superintendent Alex Pederio at the Intel office of the PPO. They asked me if I could issue a search warrant against a shabu laboratory in Virac.”

Contreras said she was surprised by the information she received. She asked De Leon and Pederio what their basis was in applying for the search warrant. She said the two showed her photos of the bodega’s exterior. However, she said the photos were not enough basis to issue a search warrant. The two officials said they had sent fire officers to check the area, but they were reportedly not allowed to enter.

Contreras said she was unconvinced because the requirement was for the applicants of the warrant to have personal knowledge of the bodega.

She suggested having it checked if the bodega had a building permit and a business permit for the business it was running.

“We checked with the mayor of Virac Samuel Laynes who later certified the building was without a permit. The certification from the Mayor came out early morning of Saturday, November 26,” she stated.

On Saturday morning, she received a call from Virac Chief of Police James Ronatay who said the bodega, which was on a property owned by a certain Angelica Balmadrid, has been entered.

Balmadrid was present along with Mayor Laynes and Catanduanes Crime Laboratory Chief PCI Josephine Clemen for a supposed inspection.

When Clemen was able to confirm that the bodega was filled with equipment used in the manufacture of drugs, Ronatay asked her (Contreras) what he was supposed to do.

“I told him to come to my office and apply for a search warrant,” the judge said.

“The application came to my office at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and was without witness. So I told Ronatay to produce a witness who also has a personal knowledge on the contents of the warehouse. Then Supt. Pederio came and started to draft his affidavit as witness, using a computer from my office.”

Because she still had to examine the applicant and the witness, the warrant was released at around 6 p.m.

“So you see, there was no delay,” she emphasized.

“And how on earth people would say that the ‘delayed’ search warrant caused the escape of Uy, when in fact they have seen in the morning that no one was inside the warehouse,” she added.

In connection with this, Contreras said she was dismayed by what happened, especially since communication arrived from the Supreme Court questioning her for the “delayed” search warrant.

“Never in my entire service as judge of this province that I delayed the issuance of a search warrant. I always make myself available for its issuance even during nighttime,” she said. (RAMIL SOLIVERES)
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