MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) cleared a prosecutor sued for disbarment by a police officer for dismissing a drug case in 2012 for incomplete documentation.

In a resolution released on December 3, the high court’s second division dismissed the case filed against lawyer Dorina A. Hernandez-Joya, adopting the recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ (IBP) Board of Governors.

A complaint filed in November 2012 before the SC Office of the Bar Confidant by Alex A. Dela Cerna, then team leader of the Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Group (AIDSOTG) of the Philippine National Police-Mimaropa, sought the disbarment as he filed criminal charges against Joya, who was then a Calapan City prosecutor.

The bad blood between Dela Cerna and Joya arose from the arrest of Ernie Padua, a drug suspect, by the PNP on Oct. 17, 2012 when the prosecutor noted “a gap in the chain of custody of evidence”, prompting the prosecutor to order the release of Padua from detention and remanded the records of the case to the regional office of the AIDSOTG for further investigation for its possible re-filing.

The complainant’s group filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) and accused the prosecutor of acts “misplaced and tantamount to a violation of the Canons of Professional Ethics,” and of “intentional concealment of facts and patent laxity and disregard of the available evidence on record.”

Joya denied the MR, noting that the joint affidavit of arrest subscribed days after the operation confirms that there was no affidavit of arrest presented when the case against Padua was first presented for inquest.

The prosecutor also said the documents submitted showed no signature from the receiving clerk of the regional crime laboratory “thereby creating a gap in the handling of evidence.”

He added that there was also no affidavit of arrest, nor a sworn statement of the poseur-buyer attached to the records.

In its report in October 2019, the IBP said it found “nothing to support the complainant’s allegations of malice, dishonesty, betrayal of trust, manifest partiality, evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence, serious irregularity and even case fixing.”

In dropping the charges, the SC also said since the acts complained arose from the prosecutor’s performance and discharge of her official duties as prosecutor of the Department of Justice, “the IBP, thus, has no jurisdiction over respondent as government lawyers charged with administrative offenses involving their official duties are within the jurisdiction of the disciplinary authorities of the government, including the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan and the Secretary of Justice.” (PNA)