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13 guns used as evidence stolen from Cebu court,
BYLINE: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Inquirer Visayas

Cebu City, Philippines

CEBU CITY—Thirteen firearms that are being kept as evidence have been stolen inside a court here.

An inventory made by Lyssette Yuson, acting clerk of court of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 4, showed 10 .38 cal. revolvers, two .22 cal. revolvers and a homemade rifle were missing in the wooden cabinet where they were being kept.

Executive Judge Francisco Seville Jr. said it was the first case of theft in the court.

Rosabella Tormis, presiding judge of the court where the guns were being kept and ousted by the Supreme Court for various offenses, said she didn’t know about the missing guns.

“I have not reported for work,” Tormis said.

The theft of the guns was discovered after Yuson, according to her report, went to the judge’s chamber to get a gun that is being claimed by its owner, a litigant who filed a pleading on June 6 to retrieve his firearm that was used as evidence.

“Upon seeing the locker, there was no sign that it had been forcibly opened since the padlock remained intact,” Yuson said in her report.

“In fact, I even used the key when I opened the padlock,” her report continued.

She, however, said she noticed that the door fastener where the padlock was put on was unscrewed.

“I discovered that the hasp (door fastener) was already detached from the locker with only one screw left,” she said.

She said she informed the other employees of the court about it.

In an inventory she conducted, Yuson learned at least 13 firearms were missing.

Of the items, 10 had been used as evidence in cases that were either dismissed or ended in the acquittal of the accused.

The three other missing firearms were used as evidence in pending cases.

If cases are dismissed, the firearms used as evidence in them would be returned to their owners as long as these are licensed. Otherwise, they shall be turned over to the custody of the Firearms Explosives Security Agency and court authorities.

Judge Meinrado Paredes of the Regional Trial Court said the clerk of court and the presiding judge had the responsibility over pieces of evidence that were in court custody.

He said the court clerk and the judge could be charged with infidelity in the custody of public property in the event pieces of evidence that were entrusted to them are lost.

“Whether or not the missing evidence were stolen or lost due to negligence, they could still be held liable,” Paredes said.

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