Monday, October 13, 2008

SC Probes Arson in Tagaytay Court

The Surpeme Court is conducting a full dress-investigation in what appears to be a case of arson involving the single-sala Regional Trial Court Branch 18 in Tagaytay City.
Initial reports disclose that some court papers, documents, and even physical exhibits were burned inside the sala of the Regional Trial Court Branch 18 in Tagaytay City around 6:30 a.m. Sunday October 12, 2008.
Lawyers supposed to be attending a court hearing Monday were greeted by a scene of tense court personnel, under the watchful eyes of elements of the Supreme Court security force in black uniforms.
Court personnel, appeared to be doing their normal duties, but refused to talk to lawyers who were clueless as to what had happened, and what was happening.
No personnel wanted to discuss what happened.
I sensed something was wrong when I went straight inside the staff room to inquire about a case I was handling.
A person in black uniform who I did not recognize asked me if I was a court personnel, and then handed me a yellow pad asking me to list my name, apparently for attendance.
I told him I am not a court personnel.
I went out and talked to the men-in-black, who introduced themselves as security forces from the Supreme Court.
"This court is under investigation," said one of them.
The files are to be audited, he added.
I asked why, and he explained what had happened the previous day.
It appears that a burned candle and traces of petroleum were noted inside the court room.
"Possible arson," the man said.
Outside the courtroom, I saw black particles, that resembled burned papers scattered on the ground.
The judge was not there.
The presiding judge of Branch 18 RTC Tagaytay is Edwin Larida.
There are assisting judges, like Judge Emma Young, from the Manila RTC, and another judge whose name escapes me.
Neither was the clerk of court present, Atty. Stanlee Calma.
There were police personnel on guard.
I heard that the court was supposed to be subject of an impending audit, but was "pre-empted" by the Sunday incident.
Although I could not confirm this officially.
"No sign yet of any forcible entry," according to one of the men present.
Soon, lawyers began arriving, not knowing what was going-on.
I tried to inquire from court personnel but they refused to speak a word about what was going on.
"Wala kaming alam attorney," said one personnel.
Tagaytay City is a single-sala court.
With the investigation on-going, cases will be stalled all the more.
On each hearing day, about thirty cases are calendared.
Obviously, this area needs additional courts.
I heard, the justice-on-wheels project will be on site to hear cases.

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