THE Court of Appeals affirmed the issuance of a warrant of arrest against former Batangas governor Richard Recto in connection with the assassination plot against former governor Armando Sanchez.

Recto, elder brother of reelected Senator Ralph Recto, was tagged as the mastermind in the bombing attack on Sanchez and the death of his two aides on June 1, 2006. He is currently at large and has a P1-million bounty for his capture.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Also charged were lawyer Christopher Belmonte, nephew of Quezon City Congressman Feliciano Belmonte; Christina Antonio, niece of newly elected party-list Congressman Patricio Antonio; and one Bettina Balderama.

Though Sanchez survived the attempt, he died last April 27 while campaigning as the official Nacionalista Party candidate for Batangas Governor against Recto's sister-in-law, incumbent Governor Vilma Santos-Recto.

In a 12-page decision penned by Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, the CA's Special Sixth Division gave weight to the testimony of witnesses proving Recto's culpability in the attempt to kill Sanchez.

The appellate dismissed the contention of Recto that there was no probable cause for his arrest, thus, the Batangas City Regional Trial Court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the warrant of arrest.

"There is no doubt that a crime was committed. Two were dead and Governor Sanchez was wounded. The latter's car also exploded. On their face, the statements of witnesses established that petitioner Recto was involved in the assassination plot," the Court ruled.

Concurring with the decision were Associate Justices Sesinando Villon and Marlene Gonzales-Sison.

Last year, the Department of Justice filed double murder and frustrated murder charges against Recto before the Batangas RTC, which later issued a warrant of arrest against him and his co-accused.

Sanchez was about to board his Hummer H-2 (Humvee) vehicle when it blew up inside the Batangas provincial capitol compound, killing his driver and close-in security Luisito Icaro and police officer Eric Landicho.

According to the DOJ findings, Recto was the principal accused by inducement in his personal desire to unseat Sanchez and for funding the assassination attempt.(JCV/Sunnex)