Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Arrest of Esperat slay brains ordered

Journalist blew whistle on agri scam

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The local court in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat has ordered the arrest of the two agriculture officials who allegedly masterminded the 2005 murder of journalist Marlene Esperat.

Esperat blew the whistle on a P700 million fertilizer scam allegedly involving former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante.

Nena Santos, private prosecutor in the Esperat murder case, Thursday said that Judge Melanio Guerrero of the Regional Trial Court Branch 20 issued the warrants against Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, finance officer and accountant of the Department of Agriculture in Central Mindanao on Tuesday.

Santos said the issuance of the warrant was swift as it came a day after prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the information-complaint against Montañer and Sabay.

The suspects’ lawyers had filed a motion to quash the murder charges when the court asked them to file their answers.

In their motion, the lawyers said a similar complaint against Montañer and Sabay had already been dismissed and that there was no ground to charge them anew.

They even tried to block the DOJ from re-filing the charges by asking the Court of Appeals to issue a certiorari and prohibition order.

Santos said the petition for certiorari was dismissed by the CA on Oct. 15.

The decision, a copy of which was received by Santos only on Thursday, stated that the secretary of justice has not committed “manifest error, grave abuse of discretion or prejudice” in ordering the reopening of the case on Oct. 8, 2007.

Montañer and Sabay were implicated by Army Sgt. Rowie Barua in the murder of Esperat, the whistle-blower on the multi-million peso fertilizer scam.

Despite his confession, the court ordered Montañer and Sabay’s names stricken off the charge sheets for alleged lack of evidence that would link them to Esperat’s murder.

Earlier, the Esperat family welcomed the move taken by Gonzalez.

In the course of the trial, Santos, on several occasions, lambasted government prosecutors for bungling the Esperat murder case.

Santos blamed the DOJ for creating one panel of prosecutors after the other.

A DOJ-formed prosecution panel led by Cotabato City prosecutor Tocod Ronda, a known ally of Montañer, endorsed the dismissal of charges against the two officials on June 29, 2005.

A month after, the DOJ created another prosecution panel, now excluding Ronda, that eventually re-filed the murder charges.
On July 4, 2005, gunmen Ex-Army Sgt. Estanislao Bismanos, Randy Grecia, and Jerry Cabayag all pleaded guilty to Esperat’s murder.

Rowie Barua, who claimed he was the one who hired the three gunmen allegedly on orders from Montaner and Sabay, was not included in the case as he turned into a state witness.

The case took a bizarre twist when each panel of prosecutors made different recommendations to the court. (By Aquiles Zonio; INQ.net)

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