Security concerns high at Palace of Justice

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol January 21,2014 - 05:04 PM

One year after a shooting rampage by a Canadian retiree claimed two victims and sent one fiscal to a hospital, security concerns remain high at the Cebu City Palace of Justice.

Despite the tight security that followed, the judges and employees were unprepared for the Oct. 15 earthquake that rendered their building practically uninhabitable and forced them to work inside tents.

Regional Trial Court Judge Macaundas Hadjirasul, chairperson of the committee on security of the Palace of Justice, said they are worried about security while holding hearings inside tents.

“There have been massive changes with regard to our security after the Oct. 15 earthquake. I believe it is too risky for us to stay outside the Palace of Justice. Now, the area to be secured is very wide. I think we should be transferred to a suitable building,” he told reporters yesterday.

Thus far, 12 security guards work in shifts to ensure peace and order at the Palace of Justice and its parking spaces where hearings are presently conducted.

At least eight policemen are also detailed to beef up security. But Hadjirasul believed the security force isn’t enough to ensure that no one will be spared of any possible ambush.

The tents where hearings are conducted daily are located along an access road inside the Capitol compound.“I’m concerned about the other judges,” he said.

Arturo Batoctoy, a court employee, said the area is vulnerable to ambush.

Last Jan. 22, 2013, Canadian retiree John Pope went inside the Palace of Justice and shot dead Dr. Rene Rafols and his lawyer Jubian Achas who were both waiting for the start of the hearing at Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 6.

Rafols filed a string of complaints against Pope who used to be his neighbor. Rafols was president of the homeowners’ association, which forced Pope to move out of his condominium in Cebu City over complaints of belligerent conduct.

Pope also shot Asst. City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Casiño on the head while she was headed to MTCC Branch 1.

Casiño, the prosecutor who handled the grave threats case filed against Pope, was the only survivor in the January 22 shooting at the Palace of Justice .

“I believe this is my second life. What I have now is already a bonus for me and my family. I’m nothing but a recipient of a miracle,” Casiño told Cebu Daily News.

She went through a three-hour surgery to remove a .357 revolver slug that got embedded on her brain. Although she could now walk and perform her duties at the Cebu City Prosecutors’ Office, Casiño continues to undergo therapy two to three times a week.

She also needs to take medication to control possible seizures which may likely happen due to the gunshot wound on the occipital lobe of her brain.

“I’m geneally okay although my vision is still affected. There are gaps in my visions. My right eye is better than the left. I could not see clearly on my right eye. Also, I could still feel numbness on the left part of my body although I can move my arms and feet,” Casiño said.

Last April, she reported back to work although she was given minimal assignments.

When asked if she has forgiven Pope, Casiño said “Have I forgiven him? I really don’t know, to be honest. How can I forgive someone who has not asked forgiveness? I don’t hate him. But I don’t love him either. I just have an empty feeling towards him. I don’t know if that’s a sign of forgiveness.”

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TAGS: Cebu City, Palace of Justice, security

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