City jail awaits Stacey murder suspect

FIFTY-one year-old murder suspect Gregorio Rosabal Santos Jr. may soon find himself in a cell at the Cagayan de Oro City Jail in Barangay Lumbia, a week after allegedly fatally strangling a sleeping 14-year-old girl.

City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag said Santos has been charged in court for murder and theft Tuesday in relation to the August 13 killing of Stacey Villar who lived with her mother at Morning Mist Village.

Macauyag said Santos’ case is being raffled off to determine which Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch will handle the case.

An executing judge will then issue a commitment order directing police to transfer Santos to the City Jail where he will remain while his case goes to trial.

Santos is now being held at a detention facility inside the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) headquarters.

"Wala pa man nahibal-an unsa na court kay i-raffle pa and so with the executive judge for this case (The case will still be raffled off). Maybe tomorrow we'll know," Macauyag said Wednesday.

Macauyag said they found the existence of probable cause for murder and theft against Santos after reviewing the evidence presented by police investigators.

Although Santos was not made to undergo a drug test, Chief Inspector Ariel Philip Pontillas, Cocpo homicide chief, said Santos was in his right mind when he allegedly committed the crime.

“Naa siya sa saktong pang huna-huna adtong panahuna (He was in his right mind at the time),” Pontillas said Wednesday.

But Macauyag said Santos' alleged confession was not taken as evidence since the supposed confession made when Santos surrendered to authorities two days after the murder, was not put into writing and made without the assistance of counsel.

"There are other independent evidences na atong gi-consider such as the affidavit of the complainant and the autopsy of the cadaver," Macauyag said.

Macauyag added that the affidavits of two credible witnesses also support the affidavit complaint of Stacey’s mother, Merideth Mah, who has engaged the services of lawyers Maximo Paderanga and Joe Pallugna to assist the prosecution.

"Other evidences are forthcoming and we will present them soon in the trial," Macauyag said.

Meanwhile, the filing of the charges in court signals the beginning of what may turn out to be a very long and arduous quest for justice.

The processing of criminal and civil cases in the country is known to be notoriously slow. A nine-year study released in 2010 by Lawyer Al Parreño found that on average, it would take five years, two months and 11 days for cases to be resolved at the regional trial courts.

Congested court dockets, over-burdened prosecutors, and a system generally considered protective of the rights of the accused are three of among many factors that generally cause the delay of the administration of justice. (With report from JB R. Deveza)

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