“City Prosecutor Oñate has already made a request to Malacañang before but up to now, the request has yet to be given action,” Aparis said.

TACLOBAN CITY- For close to three years now, the prosecutor’s office in Ormoc City is being run by only by one man. And this dearth of city prosecutors has resulted for thousands of cases to be pending in various courts in Ormoc, an independent component city in Leyte with more than 200,000 people. With at daily 10 cases, at the average, being received by their office, they need at least four lawyers assisting City Prosecutor Marcelo Oñate and his deputy, Erwin James Fabriga, says Thelma Aparis, assistant administrative officer of the City Prosecutor’s Office, in phone interview. Fabriga has been designated at the City Prosecutor’s Office by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office two years ago and not on a permanent assignment. Also designated at the Ormoc City Prosecutor’s Office was Melissa Macapugas.

“City Prosecutor Oñate has already made a request to Malacañang before but up to now, the request has yet to be given action,” Aparis said. There are two applicants for needed posts, she added. In contrast, Tacloban, the regional capital of Eastern Visayas, there are 13 lawyers assisting City Prosecutor Ruperto Golong. With only Oñate, who was named to his post in 2012, the disposition of cases handled by the office is affected. In fact, there are more than 1,200 pending cases before the two regional trial courts in Ormoc and another over 500 cases pending before the city court that need the attention of city prosecutors.

Aparis herself sought an appeal to Malacañang to appoint new city prosecutors for Ormoc. She added that she hopes that the appointments should come within this month to avoid ban on appointments next month due to the forthcoming elections. Otherwise, they would wait until a new President to appoint lawyers for Ormoc City Prosecutor’s Office. “With an average of about 10 cases received by our office, our (two) lawyers could not totally handle them. This situation results for our cases to be pending,” she said. Many of these cases, Aparis said, involving inmates at the City Jail and at the Leyte sub-provincial jail. Aparis said that this odd situation very well sums up of the old-age maxim “justice delayed, justice denied.” “They have to wait for the disposition of their cases until additional lawyers will be appointed. Meantime, all their cases are pending because of the slow disposition of the cases,” she added.

Aparis said that she pities Oñate’s situation adding that with so many cases to be handled by him, the prosecutor most of the time stays at his office to work with the cases instead of appearing before the courts. “It might affect his health,” Aparis, who has been with the City Prosecutor’s Office for 38 years now, said.  According to her, this is the first time that the office has experienced lack of prosecutors. Two of Oñate’s assistants, Gorgonia Encina and Jun Romero, were named as municipal trial court judges in 2012. (JOEY A. GABIETA)