Executive judge’s ouster sought
By Jinky Lou A. Tabor VIRAC, Catanduanes --- The legislative body of the provincial government of Catanduanes passed a resolution Tuesday, March 13, urging the Supreme Court of the Philippines to immediately relieve Judge Lelu P. Contreras from Regional Trial Court Branches 42 & 43 in this island province for lack of trust and confidence. In a three-page resolution sponsored by six out of eight provincial board members, it was cited that during the public hearing conducted by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs led by Rep. Ace Barbers, Contreras lied before the committee after denying that she was within the premises of the shabu laboratory and later recanted when Barbers informed her that he is in possession of pictures of her taken inside the shabu laboratory area with date and time indicated prior to her issuance of a search warrant. In a press conference called byJudge Contreras, she said she is still in the process of trying to understand why the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan wanted her head despite the fact that the Provincial Board Members already read her comments about the issuance of the search warrant. Also, the judge said she has never been partial in all cases she has handled and all decisions she had penned were based on evidences presented. It can be recalled that on November 26, 2016, a shabu laboratory was uncovered by PNP operatives where the Search Warrant issued to them was released past five in the afternoon but the Judge was seen present by media men and others earlier in the afternoon. Surigao Del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers assessment after the public hearing made last February 23 was that Catanduanes Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Contreras lied about her presence at the premises of the shabu laboratory on the day of its discovery. Barbers said “when we informed her that we have a photo of her together with Gen. Buenafe at the shabu lab premises at about 2:00 p.m. prior to her signing of the search warrant, she made an alibi, an excuse that she was outside and did not enter the shabu lab.” The Sanggunian Panlalawigan-approved resolution said Contreras’ violation of the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct is evident, citing other numerous reports of lack of impartiality in the delivery of Justice against her that led to the people’s loss of trust and confidence on her. Provincial Board Member Giovanni Balmadrid said he is pushing for Contreras’ ouster from her post as he cannot allow a lying judge to pass judgement on his constituents who may have cases heard before her sala. Contreras has been in hot water for allegedly delaying issuance of a search warrant to the police who raided the laboratory in Barangay Palta Small in the capital town of Virac.