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Appeals court rules regional judge has authority to grant plea deal in drug case

THE COURT of Appeals (CA) has ruled in favor of a trial court judge against a petition seeking to nullify his order granting a plea bargain deal for a man convicted of illegal drug possession.  

In an 11-page decision on Oct. 26, the CA 14th Division said Tabaco City Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Presiding Judge Alben C. Rabe did not abuse his discretion when he approved the plea bargaining for a lesser offense by the respondent.  

“Plea bargaining is a vital component of restorative justice,” CA Associate Justice Mary Charlene V. Hernandez-Azura said in the ruling.  

“The mechanism affords speedy disposal and cost efficiency which significantly contribute to the restorative justice process,” the magistrate added.  

Government prosecutors argued that Mr. Rabe abused his discretion when it granted the individual’s proposal without their consent.  

The judge disagreed, saying in his comment in the case that plea-bargaining was within the authority of a magistrate.  

The man convicted of drug possession initially pleaded not guilty and then agreed to plead guilty for a lesser offense.  

Under the country’s law on illegal drug use and possession, a person found guilty is liable to six to 12 years in prison and a fine of P50,000 to P200,000.  

The appellate court noted that plea bargaining enhances the “rehabilitative and redeeming characteristic of the offender.”  

“All told, it is without a doubt that the private respondent’s plea bargain and consequent plea of guilty to the crimes for which he was convicted were all valid as the same was made well within the Supreme Court’s Plea Bargain Framework and its Clarificatory Framework,” said the CA. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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