FAMILY members of the victims of alleged extra judicial killings in Escalante City, Negros Occidental asked the court to expedite the issuance of warrant of arrest against the suspects led by First District Representative Melecio Yap Jr.

Renecio Espiritu Jr., counsel of private complainants spouses Fernando and Teresita Damalerio, Ancel Damalerio, Francisco Matugas and Russel Lutrago, on Friday entered his appearance with comment/opposition relative to Yap’s motion for judicial determination of probable cause before the Regional Trial Court Branch 57 in San Carlos City.

The complainants filed four murder cases and one frustrated murder against the two for the deaths of an estimated 28 Escalante residents who were separately killed. They were known supporters of Santiago Barcelona, the political rival of Yap when both sought the mayoralty seat in 2007.

On December 8, 2016, the Ombudsman issued a resolution and endorsement to the Escalante City Prosecutor’s Office stating that the criminal cases filed by the People of the Philippines against Yap and Patigas and others have probable cause and those cases fell under the sala of Judge Danilo Amisola of Branch 57 and Judge Katherine Go of Branch 56.

“We filed our comment/opposition following the order of the honorable court issued last Jan. 23, 2017,” said Espiritu, who was joined by the victims’ family and relatives.

Teresita Damalerio called anew for justice to be served to their family and to those families whose family members also died.

It’s been a decade that these cases remained dormant and unresolved, she added.

She also said they will push for the inhibition of Amisola because his brother-in-law is reportedly a consultant of Yap.

Mary Oasis Catral, granddaughter of Teresita Damalerio, said they will also ask the court to transfer the conduct of hearings in Bacolod City so that these cases can proceed with fairness.

She added that the complainants and witnesses feel they are not safe to come and attend the hearing in San Carlos courts because of the known influence of Yap in the said city.

On the other hand, Ariel Malunes, one of the lawyers of Yap, said in a telephone interview Friday, said the filing of the pleading is part of the rights of the alleged victims.

“I have not read their pleadings yet. If they are making moves, we will also do our move to defend the accused,” Malunes said.

Under the rule of law, he said, it is also the right of their client to bring the matter to the attention of the court for the determination of probable cause.

“The purpose is for the issuance of the warrant of arrest. That is why we are pushing for the court to determine the existence of probable case because based on the documents they submitted, it lacks probable cause,”

Malunes added.

“To subject a person, Congressman Yap in this particular case, on trial is not fair without a probable cause. He will be subjected to trial and shame,” the lawyer further said.

For his part, Yap said he remains innocent in the claims that he was the brains behind the alleged extra judicial killings.

“It is very unfair that I am being charged for the cases I did not commit. Those killings were in fact admitted by the New People’s Army as their own workings. My family was also a victim of the NPA as my uncle was killed by the NPA,” he said.

He added that he cannot just be made answerable to those cases that are insurgency-related.

It is very unfair to be linked to crimes that are related to insurgency, Yap further said.

“They want me arrested? I also want that I will be vindicated from these cases because these are politically motivated,” the lawmaker said.