‘Conspired’ to kill

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Friday, August 29, 2014


THREE former Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 members “conspired” to kill lawyer Noel Archival in Barangay Coro, Dalaguete last Feb. 18, according to a prosecutor.

Acting Provincial Prosecutor Jesus Rodrigo Taga-an found enough evidence to indict or charge Senior Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, Senior Insp. Joselito Lerion and PO1 Alex Bacani with multiple murder and frustrated murder.

Chief Insp. Eduardo Mara, former HPG Cebu Provincial chief, and SPO4 Edwin Galan were spared from the indictment.

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Taga-an said there was no direct evidence to prove conspiracy but “conspiracy need not be proved by direct evidence of prior agreement to commit the crime.”

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 gathered circumstantial evidence and testimonies of witnesses.

Taga-an said the key in the “web of circumstantial evidence” is motive, which was established by Archival’s live-in partner, Eilenn Cosep.

She has executed an affidavit stating that two days before he was killed, the lawyer told her brother-in-law that he believed HPG personnel would get back at him.

History

“It also appears that Atty. Archival already had for several times squared off with HPG 7 officials including Iglesia and Lerion. In some of those cases, the names of Iglesia and Lerion are prominent among those that were charged by Atty. Archival on behalf of his clients.... This probably is enough motive for some HPG 7 officials to get back at Atty. Archival; especially that they have access to logistics to carry out retaliatory measures including impounded vehicles and firearms,” said Taga-an.

He said, “Worth considering is the fact that the firearms used in the attack against Atty. Archival and company was determined to include a 5.56 armalite rifle, which is a standard government issue for the military and the PNP (Philippine National Police).”

The other evidence that Taga-an considered in finding probable cause to charge Iglesia, Lerion, and Bacani is the assailants’ use of vehicles with plate numbers belonging to other cars, as well as the presence of gun powder nitrates and empty shells of an automatic rifle inside the red Toyota Vios.

Survivor

Taga-an also gave weight to the testimony of Paolo Cortes, the lone survivor in the ambush, that the red Vios impounded in HPG 7 compound and the one used by their attackers have the same features.

The red Vios that was captured by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras blocking Archival’s black Ford last Feb. 18 is the same vehicle. Also caught on CCTV was the gray Mitsubishi Strada, tailing the black Ford.

Aside from Archival, the other casualties were his aide Candido Miñoza and his driver Alejandro Jayme. Taga-an described Miñoza and Jayme as “casualties of war,” saying the lawyer was the main target.

After the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor inhibited last June, Taga-an, who is Lapu-Lapu City deputy prosecutor, was tasked by Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane to handle the preliminary investigation on the complaints filed last April by NBI 7 against Iglesia, Lerion, Bacani, Mara and Galan.

However, in his 37-page resolution released yesterday, Taga-an dismissed the complaints against Mara and Galan, saying there is lack of evidence to establish that they were part of the conspiracy to kill Archival.

Family reaction

The slain lawyer’s brother, Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival Sr., said their family is happy with Tagaan’s recommendation to file charges against the three HPG officials.

“Finally, they will have to face the court process for the murder of my brother,” he said in a statement.

Archival said that their lawyers are looking into why the two other accused were excluded from the case.

The councilor said their family hopes to find justice.

“We realize that no matter what happens, we can never bring Noel back. But even so, for his memory and for the young family he left behind, I personally hope, pray, and work every day to find justice,” he said. “I wish that in the process, the wrongdoings of HPG 7 will be made known to the public.”

Another brother, Talamban councilman Nelson Archival, said he is also glad about the resolution.

But he is dismayed with the non-indictment of Galan and Mara, saying the two were the ones responsible for the impounded cars.

“I am hoping this will continue to roll on until we can get justice for my slain brother and his aides,” he said.

DOJ

The resolution came after the Cebu City Police Coordinating and Advisory Council (PCAC) passed a resolution urging the Department of Justice to fast track the filing of complaints against the HPG officers, if there is enough evidence against them.

Prosecution lawyer Democrito Barcenas said they will file a motion asking Taga-an to reconsider his decision in dismissing the complaints against Mara and Galan, saying the NBI 7 have gathered sufficient evidence against the two police officers.

Barcenas and City Councilor Archival met yesterday and decided to file the motion.

“We appreciate prosecutor Taga-an’s courage and competence. However, for the interest of justice, we should file a motion for reconsideration,” he said.

Barcenas said the resolution of the complaints was delayed because the defense lawyers filed several motions and the Cebu prosecutor’s office inhibited from conducting the preliminary investigation.

‘Not fabricated’

NBI 7 Director Max Salvador said he is “happy” with Taga-an’s decision. He said the evidence they gathered are not fabricated, contrary to the claim of the defense.

“This is a very good resolution. Our efforts have been fruitful,” he said.

Lawyer Inocencio de la Cerna Jr. refused to comment on the indictment of his three clients, saying he still has to read the resolution.

In their counter-affidavits, Iglesia, Lerion, and Bacani denied they killed Archival. They said they were not in Dalaguete when the ambush happened.

They also said the police’s sketches of the criminals do not fit their facial features and body build.

Taga-an was not persuaded by these arguments. He said the police officials “need not be actually at the scene of the crime to stage the attack. It is enough that they concurred in the criminal agreement and induced somebody else to pull the trigger or cooperated by performing another act” that is critical for the commission of the planned crime.

‘Same vehicle’

He believes that the red Vios (GSC-675) seized by the NBI 7 from the HPG impounding area last March 20 and the red Vios (GSR-995) captured by CCTV footage blocking Archival’s black Ford last Feb. 18 are the same vehicle.

The Strada (NVO-543) was “hastily” taken out of a repair shop in Mandaue City by Bacani last March 20, the same day NBI 7 agents led by supervising agents Jose Ermie Monsanto and Rennan Oliva searched the red Vios.

Logbook entries showed that the Strada driven by Iglesia entered the HPG compound in Lahug at 4:22 p.m., more than three hours after Archival was ambushed. The Vios driven by Lerion came back at the compound at 3:38 p.m.

Another entry showed that the red Vios (GSR-995) came out of the compound at 9:42 a.m. last Feb. 18 and it was driven by Lerion, nearly four hours before the ambush.

Evidence gathered by NBI showed the license plates of Strada and Vios are not the original numbers.

“This Office thus gives credence to the allegations of the NBI agents that HPG 7 officials are using impounded vehicles for their activities and that they are interchanging and using plate numbers not officially assigned to the vehicles,” said Taga-an.

The prosecutor was also not swayed by the defense’s assertion that the NBI 7 framed the police officials to get back at them. They claimed that Monsanto is mad at them after they charged the agent with criminal and administrative cases before the Supreme Court and Ombudsman over a past incident involving his wife’s car.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 29, 2014.

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