By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
OFFICIALS of the Iloilo Hall of Justice allegedly connived with dismissed Judge Ofelia Artuz and some City Hall officials in solemnizing “bogus” or defective weddings.
This was the chief complaint of a certain Marion Durban, who is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail and Penology (BJMP) in Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo City for an illegal drugs case.
In an unsigned letter-complaint, Durban said officials from the Iloilo Hall of Justice particularly Paolo Paloma, Laurence Antiquera, Lara Jagorin, and Eva Genial, alongside Romeo Juncae Manikan of the Iloilo City Local Civil Registrar Office (LCRO) connived with Artuz to falsify marriage contracts.
The letter-complaint has been circulating in the media since last week.
“Dismissed Judge Ofelia Artuz has been falsifying marriage certificates, introducing herself to have the authority to solemnize marriages when in fact she is not. This is with the connivance of employees Paolo Paloma, Laurence Antiquera, Lara Jagorin, and Eva Genial, and Juncae Manikan of the City Hall,” Durban said.
He added that he previously worked with the above-mentioned persons as he was a former court employee and the brother of dismissed Judge Artuz.
“I respectfully enjoin your honorable office to file the appropriate administrative and criminal complaint against Ofelia Artuz, Juncae Manikan, and their conspirators. Their activities should be stopped. Otherwise there will be a continuance of massive null and void marriages in our city. I know this, since I used to work hand in hand with all these people I mentioned, plus the fact that dismissed Judge Artuz is my sister,” Durban said in his unsigned letter-complaint.
The allegations are the offshoot of the ongoing probe on the alleged defective marriages registered at the City Hall.
Recently, the city government tapped the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the alleged 180 fake marriages in the LCRO involving unauthorized solemnizing officers.
The City Legal Office (CLO) only identified the dismissed “Judge Artuz” as the possible solemnizing officer of the alleged defective weddings.
Manikan has also questioned the legality of the probe, emphasizing the lack of legal basis particularly on the unsigned letter of complaint.
Meanwhile, one of the employees of the Iloilo Hall of Justice, Lawrence Antiquera denied the allegations of the detained complainant.
“I have been completely and religiously in compliance with the policy and procedure since its effectivity. I have not indulged in any illegal activities involving marriages or have entered into transaction with any employees of Iloilo City Hall especially at the Local Civil Registrar’s Office, Iloilo City,” he said.
Antiquera emphasized that allegations against former Judge Artuz and employees of the Iloilo Hall of Justice are “but malicious and fabricated imputation of illegal acts against Judge Artuz”.
“As to the allegation, that certain employees of Iloilo Hall of Justice have connived with Judge Ofelia Artuz of the alleged anomalous transaction regarding marriages, the same has no legal and factual basis hence, fabricated. It is worthy to note, that effective August 27, 2017 former Judge Artuz was already dismissed from the service and no longer connected with the Judiciary,” he furthered.
Even before the dismissal of Judge Artuz, Antiquera said a “Marriage Bureau” has already been operating at the Hall of Justice.
“There exists a ‘Marriage Bureau’ even prior to the dismissal of Judge Artuz and I also have received a memorandum (to all employees) issued by then Executive Judge Ma. Theresa Gaspar, Branch 8, Iloilo Hall of Justice directing all employees to refer all applicants (Civil Wedding) to the Marriage Bureau at the Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court in Iloilo City,” he added.
Antiquera said he also doubts the veracity or authenticity of the undersigned letter, emphasizing that Durban is presently detailed at BJMP.
“As to the undersigned letter-complaint, the same is unfounded and very doubtful if not fabricated. It is worthy to mention that the complainant is presently detained for Violation of Republic Act 9165 (Selling and Using) of Illegal Drugs pending before RTC Branch 35, Iloilo Hall of Justice,” he noted.