IT WAS a hectic 2017 on the justice beat.
The National Bureau of Investigation Southeastern Mindanao Region (NBI 11) for one is still looking for self-proclaimed member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) Edgar Matobato after a wild goose chase that has sent Matobato apparently fleeing the country.
Matobato is facing trial before the Panabo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) for allegedly kidnapping the Turkish national and suspected terrorist Sali Makdum in 2002. He is also facing trial before the Digos City court for frustrated murder.
Aside from these two cases, Matobato is also facing charges for illegal possession of firearms before the Municipal Trial Court of the Cities (MTCC) in Davao City. This stemmed after he was caught carrying an unlicensed firearm.
Judge Dorothy Montejo-Gonzaga of the RTC Branch 4 earlier issued a hold departure order to Matobato following the issuance of the arrest warrant against the accused on the kidnapping and frustrated murder case.
Matobato tagged President Rodrigo Duterte, who has served as mayor of Davao City for 22 years, to be behind the extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the mythical DDS.
Aside from Matobato, the NBI 11 is also looking for retired policeman Arturo Lascañas who earlier claimed he was a handler of the DDS and also implicated Duterte to the killings.
Lascañas was earlier charged with murder and two counts of frustrated murder in connection with the attacks that led to the death of a radio broadcaster Juan “Jun” Pajadora Pala on September 6, 2003 while he was heading home.
The NBI already coordinated with the International Police Organization (Interpol) to look for Lascañas, after the latter reportedly left the Philippines last April 8, following the threats that a complaint will be filed against him.
Like Matobato, Lascanas was believed to have fled the country. His family in Davao City has likewise disappeared.
Meanwhile, the Davao City Prosecution Office (CPO) and the courts handling the terrorism case, multiple murder, and multiple frustrated murder cases of the accused Maute members in the Roxas night market bombing, is still asking for the transfer of the case and custody of the accused to Taguig City, Metro Manila.
Speaking of the Maute, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Davao Region has postponed the barangay and the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election to 2018, after the entire Mindanao is placed under martial law by the president.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial following the attack of a terrorist-inspired Maute group in Marawi City last May. The barangay and SK elections were moved to January to February in 2018.
NBI 11 also arrested about five people for practicing illegal dentistry here in Davao City. Those arrested were charged with violation of the Republic Act 9484 or The Philippine Dental Act of 2007. The arrests has created a rift among dental practitioners and has become a sore spot in the profession.
It was also in 2017 when the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao (OMB-Min) inaugurated its new building located at GSIS Heights in Matina in Davao City.
Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao lawyer Rodolfo Elman said the new three-storey building came at favorable time. He added that their new office accentuates their drive for more efficient and effective delivery of services.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples 11 (NCIP 11) launched its Philippine Indigenous Peoples Ethnographies (Pipes) program, which aims to vitalize resources that can help build self-sustaining Indigenous Cultural Communities.
NCIP 11 regional director Geroncio Aguio said the program is a flagship project of the NCIP which will focus on the expansion activities of the core mandates of the commission.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Davao Chapter also conducted its first legal aid mission in Hongkong in 2017. It plans to hold another one for overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) this January 2018.
IBP-Davao chapter president lawyer Rogelio Largo said they already got the approval from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore for their next mission. The legal missions are IBP-Davao contribution to the government's drive to provide OFWs the utmost legal service they deserve.
As the new year enters, the government agencies in Davao City vowed to continue what they have started and strengthen their respective mandates and programs all for the community.