Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Nalzaro: Is positive identification enough evidence?

THE additional evidence presented by the police against Jimmy Largo, one of the suspected gunmen of Ermita barangay captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta, that Largo was somewhere in Liloan on that night the village chief was ambushed bolsters the police theory that Largo was one of the perpetrators of the crime. The Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) presented to the media a footage taken from the closed circuit television camera (CCTV) in a convenience store in Liloan showing that Largo and an unidentified cohort bought food stuff while waiting for the vehicle of Rupinta to pass by.

Police said that Largo and his cohorts tailed the village chief after he and his partner, Jocelyn Mendoza, left Barangay Ermita. Largo and a certain “Jordan” were seen playing bingo at the Ermita barangay hall in the afternoon up to the early evening on Nov. 23, or before Imok was ambushed at around 8 o’clock in the evening in Tayud, Liloan.

The owner of the convenience store volunteered to provide to the police the CCTV footage as evidence. Aside of Largo and his cohort captured in the CCTV, Rupinta’s vehicle was also seen passing by the area with a motorcycle apparently tailing it. Few minutes later, Imok was killed by four gunmen riding in two separate motorcycles. Largo was positively identified by Mendoza.

The CCTV footage belied the version of Largo that he was in Ermita at the time Imok was murdered. He claimed that he even talked to the barangay captain’s elder brother when he heard about Imok’s ambush. But Imok’s elder brother denied Largo’s claim.

The police also said they already have the names of the other suspects, including the alleged mastermind. And who is the mastermind? A political rival of Imok at the barangay level or somebody in a higher position? The president of a vendor’s association who had a conflict with Rupinta denied her alleged involvement in the killing.

Is positive identification enough basis to convict the accused? Maybe or maybe not. Why? Because there are circumstances when the witnesses might commit a blunder during cross-examination.

Take the case of radio commentator Choy Torralba, who was shot by a young man out of jealousy a few years back. It was a crime of passion. The culprit got jealous when his girlfriend was employed by the radio commentator as a member of his campaign staff for Sen. Loren Legarda. Choy just got out from the radio station after his noontime radio program when he was shot. He survived the attack.

Choy positively identified his attacker. He even joked that he was lucky because he was able to read the newspapers’ headlines about what happened to him. The young man was convicted by the Regional Trial Court (RTC). He appealed his conviction with the Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s decision because it was a case of “mistaken identity.” How come when the victim himself survived and positively identified the accused?

We don’t want this situation to happen in Imok’s case. How can his family obtain justice if there are blundes in the investigation stage? Again, we have to remind our police that the investigation stage, the filing of the case in court and trying the merits of the case in court are different things.
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