DEATH THREAT

Posted on February 11, 2012

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Judge asks NBI to verify threat letter from ‘Ka Jerry’
 
 
He’s not one to discuss cases outside the court, much less grant media interviews.

But yesterday Judge Raphael Yrastorza of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 in Cebu City made an exception and confirmed that he received a written death threat last Thursday.

The letter sender who signed as “Ka Jerry” said Yrastorza has been judged and given the death sentence. The handwritten letter gave no details, however, about which case was being referred to.

The 65-year-old judge said he isn’t taking any chances.
He faxed a copy to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Central Visayas to have the letter verified. The NBI main office in Manila was also informed.

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Part of the letter read: “Sobra ang imong pagdaug-daug sa mga akusado og pagyatak sa ilang katungod kabahin sa pagpyansa. Sa among tigom gikahukman ka nga pahamtangan sa silot nga kamatayon.”

(You have severely oppressed people accused of a crime and trample on their right to bail . In our meeting, you have been judged and meted the punishment of death.)

The language is similar to that used by armed left-wing rebel groups that mete “revolutionary justice” to their enemies.

Judge Yrastorza said he hasn’t asked for a security detail from the police or see the need for one.

“I’m not afraid of any man. Why should I be afraid? I’m just doing my responsibilities as judge,” he told Cebu Daily News.

“I’ve never requested for security ever since. I didn’t step on anyone. I even helped people. Wa ko nagpalabi (I didn’t go overboard),” the judge said.

Yrastorza said he is entrusting his safety to St. Raphael the Archangel, his namesake.

“I dare them. Do whatever you like. I’m not afraid. I fear no one except God. I’m not afraid of any human being,” he said.

Yrastorza said he used to be a human rights lawyer before he became a Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) judge in 1995. He was appointed to the RTC in 1999.

Yrastorza used to handle cases involving minors and family disputes as presiding judge of a family court. He is presently assigned to a regular court.

Among the cases he is currently handling is the P37.8-million refund claim of the Cebu provincial government against the heirs of the Balili estate and a libel suit filed by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia against trimedia personality Leo Lastimosa.

The threat may have something to do with the bail bond of an accused as stated in the letter. The judge may have canceled the bail bond of a respondent and ordered his arrest or refused to approve a motion for bail for someone’s temporary liberty.

Asked if he knew which case the letter sender could be referring to, Yrastorza said no.

Yrastorza said all his actions as a judge have been appropriate and legal.

He said he has issued a bench warrant of arrest against a number of accused whose bonding company failed to renew its accreditation.

“I’m doing that to all (who violate the legal provisions on bail),” the judge said.

“That is not oppression. I’m just following the rules laid down by the Supreme Court and the law,” he said.

“I’d like to make it of record that I was a human rights lawyer. Being a human rights lawyer has never faded even if I’m already a judge,” he said.

Blackmail

Judge Meinrado Paredes, former RTC executive judge in Cebu City, said death threats come with the territory of being a judge.

But he said he hasn’t receied any in his career, though he used to when he was still a human rights lawyer during Martial law.

“Di lang siya mokompyansa. Bantay lang. Di ka mahimutang. Ma-affected gyud ang imong efficiency,” he said.

(Yrastorza shouldn’t be complacent. He should be on guard. You will feel uneasy. Your efficiency will definitely be affected.)

Paredes said the death threat received by Yrastorza was a form of “blackmail.”

Chilling message

He said judges have the “discretion” to cancel the bail bond of an accused.

While judges don’t have security escorts, they are secured by members of the Judicial Security Group (JSG) inside the premises of the Palace of Justice.

“I hope he (Yrastorza) will be granted security escorts,” said Paredes.

Earl Bonachita, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Cebu City, condemned the threats sent to Yrastorza as “violative of the rule of law.”

“The message sends a chilling message to the judge who may be affected in decisions he will make in the future,” Bonachita said.

He said the IBP will monitor the investigation that will be done by the NBI. /By Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter

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A copy of the letter sent by a certain `Ka Jerry` to Judge Yrastorza

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