Judge: Case vs British national stays-A A +A
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
CEBU CITY -- The defense in the Ellah Joy Pique kidnapping and homicide case asked a judge Monday to dismiss the case against Ian Charles Griffiths, “without prejudice” to the pending case against the latter’s girlfriend, Bella Ruby Santos.
But Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Ester Veloso pointed out there is nothing in the law that allows the dismissal of a case merely because the accused cannot be located.
“If that’s the case, all the accused will also hide so the case against them will also be dismissed,” said Judge Veloso.
Santos, recently arrested after three months at large, maintained her innocence on charges that she and Griffiths kidnapped Pique, 6, outside her school last February 8, and then murdered her.
With the help of a court interpreter, Santos pleaded not guilty during her arraignment Monday at the RTC Branch 6 in Cebu City.
Wearing a plain yellow shirt, white jeans and white sneakers, Santos arrived in court past 8 a.m. She was accompanied by jail guards from the Naga City jail and some of her family members and supporters.
The arraignment was also witnessed by Renante Pique, the victim’s father. It lasted for about 20 minutes, without any fanfare inside or outside the courtroom.
Judge Veloso barred the media from taking videos and photos throughout the proceedings, but allowed reporters to cover the arraignment. Santos was brought back to her detention cell in the Naga City jail afterwards.
Santos’s arraignment took place 17 days after she was arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Central Visayas in Metro Manila last October 7.
Griffiths was earlier freed on bail commitment, pending further inquiries by the authorities in London.
Four defense lawyers -- Rameses Villagonzalo, Ronel Ubod, Lyndon Maceren and Julius Ceasar Entise -- assisted Santos in court on Monday.
After Santos’s arraignment, it was lawyer Ubod who asked Judge Veloso in open court to dismiss the case against Griffiths “without prejudice” to the pending case against Santos.
This was immediately denied.
Judge Veloso also pointed out the local court has not acquired jurisdiction over Griffiths yet.
Another defense counsel, Entise, said the panel of prosecutors should be barred from opposing their motion for reconsideration, since the state’s case is weak.
But Cebu Provincial Prosecutor Petronio Elesterio said opposing the defense’s motion is a matter of court procedure and well within the rights of the complainant.
Judge Veloso will tackle next month the defense’s motion to review her denial of an earlier pleading to drop the kidnapping with homicide case and recall the arrest warrant against Santos and Griffiths.
In denying the defense’s motion, Veloso had ruled it was moot and academic, since the defense filed an omnibus motion for the court to determine if probable cause exists, instead of focusing on the issuance of an arrest warrant.
In their joint motion, however, the defense counsels said the court failed to consider that Santos received the order for her arrest only after they filed the omnibus motion.
As for the separate child pornography case against her, Santos may not be completely off the hook.
The Naga City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the child pornography complaint last Tuesday for lack of evidence, but Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Patrocinio Comendador, also the spokesperson of Ellah Joy Task Force, said they plan to file a motion for reconsideration.
Comendador said the Children’s Legal Bureau already prepared the motion.
Naga City Prosecutor Napoleon Alburo has said the complaint for child pornography that the police filed wouldn’t withstand trial.
This case was an offshoot of the raid by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Santos’s home in Naga, at the height of the agency’s investigation on the kidnapping and homicide case.
Aside from the vehicle that allegedly matched descriptions of the vehicle the kidnappers used, the police also recovered pornographic illustrations on covers of compact discs during the raid.
The search warrant, however, was for evidence in the kidnapping and homicide case, and not to secure evidence for a pornography case.
“If the complaint will be rejected again, we will ask for help from the Department of Justice,” Comendador said in an interview.
He also corrected reports that the task force will not have any participation in the trial.
“We will help in coordinating with the victim’s father… We will do whatever is best for the case to prosper,” he said.
Renante, Ellah Joy’s father, is scheduled to meet with Comendador on Wednesday to discuss the developments of the case.
In an interview after the arraignment, Villagonzalo called the kidnapping with homicide case against their client “bogus as a P300 bill.”
Villagonzalo said the request of government prosecutors to ask for 10 days to submit their comment on their motion for reconsideration is simply meant to delay the proceedings.
Defense counsel Entise said the filing of the state prosecutor’s opposition to their motion should be done to show evidence that the guilt of the accused is strong. But in this case, he added, it is weak.
The defense earlier filed a petition asking the judge to let Santos post bail. (GMD/With DSM/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 25, 2011.