THE Davao City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed Thursday the murder charges filed against Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu for lack of evidence.

But charges against Mangudadatu's two bodyguards, PO1 Ibrahim Langalen and PO1 Surab Lintukan Bantas, are being pursued as the two were formally charged in court for the murder of Tamano Kamendan inside the Gaisano South Citimall on February 11.

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In a joint resolution dated March 3, Prosecutors Jofre Saniel, Maria Gemma Dabbay-Tambis, and Marte Melchor Velasco opined that the charge against Mangudadatu of alleged complicity or conspiracy in the shooting to death of Kamendan had insufficient evidence.

The resolution also stated that Kamendan's wife, Natividad, did not include in her initial statement to the police the involvement of Mangudadatu in the shooting of her husband.

It was learned that Natividad's statement alleging that Mangudadatu ordered his bodyguards to shoot Kamendan came only after Natividad had a talk with lawyers Philip Pantojan and Alexis Lumbatan and a person identified only as Barpa Ustadz.

Pantojan and Lumbatan are legal counsels of the Ampatuans who are being accused of killing 57 innocent civilians in Maguindanao on November 23.

Among the victims were Mangudadatu's wife and sisters.

A witness, Rosario Casiguran Bugayong, also testified that she was at the said mall during the incident and saw for herself that a man, she later came to know as Kamendan, grabbed the hand of one of Mangudadatu's daughters.

Mangudadatu’s daughter shouted for help thus starting the commotion. The witness also attested that prior to the ruckus; she did not notice Mangudadatu talking to anyone.

The prosecutors also stated that Kamendan's witness who would corroborate the Natividad's allegation also failed to appear before the panel despite the subpoena issued to her.

As to the case against the bodyguards, the prosecutors stated that there was probable cause for the crime of murder under Article 243 of the Revised Penal Code considering that there was an abuse of superior strength since the two respondents were armed while the victim was not.

On the claim of self-defense by the two bodyguards, the prosecutors ruled that such justifying circumstance is a matter of evidence for the courts to determine during trial. (Ben O. Tesiorna)