HPG-7 officials face murder raps

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Sunday, April 20, 2014


A JOINT team by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 and Special Investigation Task Group Archival filed on Tuesday multiple murder and frustrated murder charges against five officials of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 in relation to the ambush-slay of lawyer Noel Archival and his two staffers.

Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, HPG 7 Director; Senior Insp. Eduardo Mara, HPG provincial chief; Senior Insp. Joselito Lerion, HPG 7 Special Operations Team head; SPO4 Edwin Galan, HPG 7 designated custodian; and PO1 Alex Bacani allegedly conspired to ambush Archival, his aide Candido Miñoza and his driver Alejandro Jayme in Dalaguete, Cebu last Feb. 18.

The NBI 7 and the Task Group Archival relied on circumstantial evidence in filing the complaint, such as testimonies and logbook entries at the HPG 7 impounding area.

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One of the entries showed Iglesia driving the Mitsubishi Strada (NVO 543) out of the impounding area in the morning of Feb.17, 2014, or on the day before the ambush. On Feb. 18, Lerion also took the Toyota Vios (GSC 995) out of the impounding compound at 9: 42 a.m.

Precedence

Is circumstantial evidence enough for conviction?

According to Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

In some cases, the Supreme Court (SC) convicted the accused based on circumstantial evidence.

In its decision, dated Oct.12, 2011, the SC’s Second Division, chaired by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, affirmed the Court of Appeals’s (CA) decision convicting Edwin Villamor of murder.

Justices Carpio, Maria Lourdes Sereno and Bienvenido Reyes concurred with Associate Justice Arturo Brion, who penned the decision.

The CA sustained the decision of the Regional Trial Court in Digos City, Davao del Sur, which found Villamor guilty beyond reasonable doubt for murdering Ruben Resuelo Sr. in October 2009.

Prosecution witness Jose Valderama testified that he was outside his house in Sitio Caran-caran, Barangay Goma, Digos City on Oct. 9, 2000.
Valderama, a relative of Resuelo, said he saw Villamor, Melanio
Galo, and three other men armed with a Garand and M14 Armalite rifles pass by, walking behind the “hog-tied” Resuelo Sr. Valderama said he went to his aunt’s house in Barangay Dulangan and reported what he saw.

Denial

After learning of Resuelo’s death, Valderama concluded that Villamor and his companions were responsible for the victim’s death.

Government prosecutors charged Villamor and eight other people with murder on May 9, 2001. Of the nine accused, only Villamor was arrested, while the others remain at large.

Villamor testified that he was a member of the New People’s Army, but left the organization in May 2001.

He denied any participation in Resuelo’s death, and maintained that he was in another village at the time of the incident.

In September 2003, the lower court convicted Villamor of murder. He was also ordered to pay the victim’s heirs P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 as actual damages.

The CA upheld the lower court’s decision, saying all the elements of circumstantial evidence were established.

The SC justices affirmed the CA’s ruling, saying the prosecution established Villamor’s guilt for murder beyond reasonable doubt.

The lack of direct evidence did not bar the finding of guilt against Villamor, the justices pointed out.

“As long as the prosecution establishes the appellant’s participation in the crime through credible and sufficient circumstantial evidence that leads to the inescapable conclusion that the appellant committed the imputed crime, the latter should be convicted,” the justices said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 20, 2014.

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