Killers released even before evidence presented!

March 27, 2008

SEAPA RELEASE 27 Mar 2008
A story in which a Judge released two masterminds even before the prosecution had a chance to present evidence. This is how rotten the judicial system is. It trickles down from the very top to the traffic policeman accepting bribes. Leadership by example? Yes, undoubtedly.
Here is proof.

Alert – Philippines
27 March 2008
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Manila

Court halts trials of alleged masterminds of journalist’s killings

The Cebu City Court of Appeals issued a 60-day temporary
restraining order on 25 March 2008 on the trial of the suspected
masterminds of the killing of a journalist.

Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, accused of ordering the 24
March 2005 killing of journalist Marlene Esperat, filed a petition
on 4 February 2008 for a temporary restraining order to prevent
Cebu Regional Trial Court Branch 7 Judge Simeon Dumdum from hearing
the case.

Montañer and Sabay argued that Dumdum has no jurisdiction over the
case since the 23 November 2005 Supreme Court resolution approving
the transfer of the case from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat to Cebu
City, Cebu only applied to then accused Estanislao Bismanos, Rowie
Barua, Gerry Cabayag and Randy Grecia, who were all found guilty
and sentenced to life imprisonment except for Barua, who was
discharged after he turned state witness.

The case was transferred following a successful petition by the
Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of six
media organizations working to promote and protect press freedom.
The FFFJ, of which CMFR is a founding member and serves as
secretariat, asked for the transfer in response to the safety
concerns of witnesses and the need for a more neutral court and
environment, the accused being allegedly influential in Tacurong.

Esperat, who had written exposés accusing Montañer and Sabay of
corrupt practices, was gunned down in full view of her children
while the family was having dinner in their Tacurong City residence.

Montañer and Sabay were not included in the Supreme Court
resolution granting the transfer of venue because Tacurong City
Judge Francis Palmones, then presiding judge of the case, had
dismissed the case against Sabay and Montañer. Palmones dismissed
the case against the two alleged masterminds even before the
prosecution had presented evidence.

The Cebu City Court of Appeals has yet to issue a resolution on the
petition for certiorari, also filed by Montañer and Sabay on 4
February 2008. A certiorari is a writ which could be issued by a
superior court to a lower court to annul or modify ongoing
proceedings if the latter judge acted on a case outside his
jurisdiction.

Private prosecutor Nena Santos said that the Montañer and Sabay
petition for certiorari and temporary restraining order is “another
scheme to get away with murder through technicalities”.

Santos filed a letter to the Supreme Court on 24 March 2008 asking
for a “declaratory resolution” on the case’s change of venue. In
her letter, Santos asked for the Supreme Court to state “that only
the Supreme Court has sole authority to act on matters affecting
the change of venue of trial in criminal cases and that [the 23
November 2005 Supreme Court resolution ordering the transfer of
venue] clearly subsumes and encompasses the trial” of Sabay and
Montañer.

Santos also asked for the Supreme Court to require the accused to
explain why they should not be cited for contempt since the issue
of transfer of venue has already been resolved by the Supreme
Court, to direct the Cebu Court of Appeals to dismiss Sabay and
Montañer’s petition for certiorari, and to direct the Cebu Regional
Trial Court Branch 7 to proceed with the case.

“Considering the absurdity of the position the accused have now
taken, i.e., that the case should be returned to Tacurong City, or
refiled in Cotabato City, we feel that it behooves the Supreme
Court as a court of law and equity to use its plenary power to
assist the People of the Philippines, private complainants and the
media group in obtaining a speedy, just and inexpensive
determination of this only media murder case where the masterminds
have long been identified, investigated, re-investigated, charged
and re-charged but never arrested and  brought to trial,” Santos
said in her letter.

“The authority of the Court and respect for fair trial are put to
the greatest test when influential high government officials are
the accused. Even when they are tried they have resources and
connections to reduce the trial to a farce. In the case of Marlene
Esperat, the accused mastermind’s abuse of the judicial process
makes a mockery of our laws and the concept of fair trial. Their
unwarranted reliance on technicality, which amazingly has been
aided by some judges have openly embarrassed the administration of
justice with impunity,” Santos added.

Dumdum issued arrest warrants for Montañer and Sabay on 4 February
2008, but the two were never arrested.

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