THE five cops accused of kidnapping of Enrique Fernandez III each entered a not guilty plea during their arraignment Monday, December 5, before Judge Gil Bollozos of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 21.
Lawyer Alex Caburnay, head agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)- Northern Mindanao, said the accused, Senior Inspector Ereneo Ramirez, Police Officer 3 (PO3) Alejandro Ubanan, Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Jojo Lim, SPO1 Alaindelon Tacubao, and PO2 Sangkula Hussein--also filed petitions for bail which the court is set to hear on January 23, 2017.
The five policemen, all former members of the Crime Against Persons and Property Desk (CAPPD) of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo), are accused of abducting Fernandez after a closed circuit television camera recording showing the alleged kidnapping outside the Uptown Condotel in Upper Balulang surfaced.
The court has yet to schedule the pre-trial conference of the case but the prosecution has filed kidnapping charges against police suspects with no bail recommended.
Caburnay said even if it is a capital offense and non-bailable, they expect the accused to try to convince the court that the prosecution's case is weak.
"Pwede sila mahatagan sa korte og chance nga makapyansa kung ma-prove nila sa korte nga weak ang mga evidences (The court can give them a chance to post bail if they [accused] can prove to them [court] their evidences are weak)," Caburnay said.
"Magsabot pami kinsa mahimong witness sa prosecution pagsugod sa hearing, then ipa-comment pud ang respondents kung kinsa pud sa ilang side (We will still talk on who can be witnesses in the prosecution when the hearing starts and ask comments from the respondents on their witnesses)," Caburnay added.
However, Caburnay is confident that the evidences and witnesses are strong enough to convict the accused.
"Evidences speak for themselves. Intact ang atong evidences and witnesses and some of them are protected by the NBI (Our evidences and witnesses are intact)," Caburnay added.
The NBI-Northern Mindanao head agent is also appealing to any of the suspects to stand as state witness and coordinate with the NBI to track down the location of the victim.
Caburnay assured that whoever decides to be a state witness would be placed under the witness protection program of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The lawyer said by turning state witness, he will be exempted from the liability of the crime committed based on a provision of law.
"I am appealing to any of them to be a state witness, katong gamay (those with little) participation perhaps. You can coordinate sa NBI, we are willing to assist you to be placed under the DOJ witness protection program," Caburnay said.
He said the NBI has not lost hope even as he called on to neighbors or supposed witnesses to come forward.
The victim's family has offered a P50,000 bounty for those who can give the location of the victim but information received by NBI recently on the whereabouts of Fernandez have so far yielded negative results.
Meanwhile, the victim's family expressed no surprise after the five accused pleaded not guilty.
Bebe Estrada, the victims’ aunt, said the fight has just started and hoped the suspects will rot in jail.
"Wala nami nakurat. Klaro na kaayo ang ebidensya molimod pa gyud sila. Dili pa gyud mo mohunong hangtod makita namo si Kiking buhi man o patay (We were not shocked. They’re still denying it even if evidences are clear. We won’t stop until we find Kiking [Fernandez] dead or alive)," Estrada said.