AFTER four months, the City Prosecutor's Office in Cagayan de Oro has filed four murder charges against a police official before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Northern Mindanao.

Regional State Prosecutor (RSP) Jaime L. Umpa said the murder charges were filed in different RTCs in the region by four complainants against Police Chief Inspector Anselmo Ladra.

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"It is now up to the judges when and how they would assess the cases for them to release an order of arrest against Ladra," Umpa said.

Ladra is identified as the primary suspect who killed four persons including two soldiers after a heated argument inside a videoke bar in Agora, Lapasan, this city, early dawn on March 24 this year. He had reportedly gone into hiding after the incident.

Based on record, the cases, which were raffled before the office of the executive judge on July 7, were assigned to RTC Branch 41, Branch 17, Branch 21 and Branch 18.

Umpa suggested to consolidate the four cases into one for the prosecution's convenience in presenting evidences in one court and to "avoid inconsistencies" during court hearings.

Nevertheless, he noted that criminal charges such as murder cases could be counted per victim if it involves shooting incidents while a multiple murder is cited as only applicable to killing people through bombings.

"But it's possible for the prosecution to consolidate. They can file a motion before the proper court during court proceedings," Umpa said.

City Prosecutor Fidel L. Macauyag told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone that one of the members of the prosecution who handles Ladra's cases said the four cases were already consolidated into one and is now assigned at Branch 41.

"Because the case assigned at Branch 41 has a case number considered as lowest number than the other three cases," Macauyag said.

He said that the filing of the cases is "too early" compared to other criminal cases.

"The case was filed the other day. Less than three months, the panel of prosecution was able to file it in the RTC," he said.

During preliminary investigations, Ladra was still at large but the prosecution accepted the suspect's counter affidavit.

"We used it. We appreciated his (Ladra) counter affidavit but the statements of the witness prevail, that's why the panel pursued the filing of the case," Macauyag said, adding that Ladra's statement is "self-serving".

Since Ladra is still at large, Macauyag said the court would determine whether or not a hold departure order would be issued to prevent him from getting out of the country.

"He is already at large. Even in the previous months, he's at large. But the hold departure order is up for the court to issue," he said. (Loui S. Maliza)