Kid witness identifies Bella Ruby-A A +A
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
CEBU CITY -- A 12-year-old prosecution witness identified Tuesday Bella Ruby Santos as the companion of a male foreigner who snatched six-year-old grader Ellah Joy Pique outside her school in Barangay Calajoan, Minglanilla, Cebu, on February 8.
The state prosecutors and defense lawyers confirmed this in separate interviews with reporters after the close to two-hour hearing on the motion filed by the defense seeking to allow Santos to post bail.
The first prosecution witness -- a schoolmate of Pique – testified inside the chamber of Judge Ester Veloso of the Regional Trial Court Branch 6.
The public and media were barred inside the chamber in lieu of the witness’s age. Only two lawyers from the defense and the prosecution were allowed inside the chamber.
The hearing was in compliance with Judge Veloso’s order for the prosecution to present evidence in support of its claim that Santos is “guilty” of the kidnapping with homicide case.
The panel of government prosecutors had indicted Santos and her British boyfriend, Ian Charles Griffiths, for kidnapping with homicide, a non-bailable crime.
Santos pleaded not guilty to charges that she and Griffiths conspired to abduct and murder the young girl for their supposed online pornographic business.
The police, citing testimonies of their witnesses, claimed Pique was allegedly grabbed by a big male foreigner and his Filipina companion last February 8 outside her school.
Pique’s body was found dumped the following day at the bottom of a cliff in Barili, Cebu.
The court ordered Santos detained at the Naga City jail. Griffiths, on the other hand, is freed on bail commitment pending further inquiries by London law enforcers.
The respondents’ lawyers had been seeking from court to junk the criminal charges against them, but Judge Veloso thumbed down their attempts.
The defense lawyers then filed bail motion, arguing that although Santos is facing heinous crime, she is still entitled to bail since the evidence of guilt against her is “not only weak, but practically nothing and nonexistent.”
But state prosecutors blocked the defense’s move, saying that since Santos faces a heinous offense, the “right to bail is not a matter of right.”
Judge Veloso gave the prosecution panel, which includes state prosecutors and the Children’s Legal Bureau, who acts as a private prosecutor, a chance to offer evidence to prove its allegation that Santos committed the crime.
“The court gives due course to the accused Santos’s application for bail,” Veloso said in her omnibus order.
At the hearing Tuesday morning, family members and supporters of the accused filled up the courtroom of RTC Branch 6. They wore white shirts with words “Ian and Bella are innocent” printed on the shirts.
Sought for statement after the hearing, defense counsels Rameses Villagonzalo and Julius Cesar Entise both confirmed the minor prosecution witness recognized Santos as the one of two people who abducted Pique outside her school in Minglanilla town.
But both counsels asserted the testimony of the first prosecution witness was “in favor” of their client. But they declined to elaborate further about the testimony of the witness on the orders of Judge Veloso.
Cebu Provincial Assistant Prosecutor Petronio Elesterio also refused to say the gist of their witness’ testimony aside from the fact that the young girl identified Santos as the culprit.
The court set the continuation of the hearing on November 22, with the defense’s chance to cross-examine the witness. (GMD/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 16, 2011.