AN ongoing debate as to who must prove that Gisela Bendong-Boniel is still alive won’t be resolved without clarifying the nature of the burden.
When the story broke last June 17 about the Bien Unido woman mayor--that she was hauled off from that town’s resort, shot and thrown into the sea--witnesses affirmed that the detention and killing happened.
Gisela’s husband Niño Rey Boniel, a Bohol provincial board member, was arrested and he acknowledged to the police his wife’s death although he said his aide fired the gun, not he. And all that was publicized and not contradicted for several days.
Change of narrative
Later events changed the admission: Niño Rey was found negative of gunshot residue, the gun that killed Gisela was missing, and Gisela’s body couldn’t be located. Then Niño Rey, through his lawyers, began casting doubt about his wife’s death.
In the counter-affidavit, they put their defense in writing: Gisela is still alive. She was heavily in debt and fled and was rumored to be in Dubai. A Bohol newspaper society writer phoned her and her “spirit” answered.
Gisela’s lawyer is right. The new story is a belated revision, which contradicts earlier testimonies but only now.
Defense, for now
Proof of life? This is no kidnap-for-ransom case, in which the kidnapper is asked for evidence the hostage is still alive. (The 2000 Meg Ryan movie of the same title was based on a Vanity Fair article on “Adventures in the Ransom Trade.”)
But if anyone should’ve the burden of proving that Gisela is traipsing in Dubai or her spirit is answering phone calls, it’s the defense.
Defense lawyers, in press feeds and Niño Rey’s counter-affidavit, are the ones claiming she’s alive and not fishnet-wrapped on some ocean floor.
Proof of death
Of course, when the case goes to trial, the state must prove (1) the fact of Gisela’s death and (2) Niño Rey and her co-accused killed her. Defense will try to tear at the proof on death at cross-examination and with its own evidence. The judge will determine who’s telling the truth and who’s been giving fish sh*t.
Before then, let the defense have its lark in changing the narrative that Niño Rey and other players gave about the killing.
But for the public to believe this revised tale, they should support it with evidence stronger than a rumored foreign trip or a ghost tale.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 27, 2017.
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