THE Negros Oriental assistant provincial prosecutor handling the multiple murder case relative to the deaths of farmers claiming to be petitioners of the government’s land reform program is expected to come up with a resolution with or without the counter-affidavits of the respondents.
Assistant Prosecutor Joann Marie Abada said Thursday, March 8, that the respondents, through their lawyers, can still submit their counter-affidavits, which they failed to present during the recent conduct of a preliminary investigation.
If the counter-affidavits are submitted after the resolution has been signed, then she could no longer “appreciate” these, she said.
She said the preliminary investigation is to determine if there is probable cause to file the case in court.
Abada conducted the preliminary investigation Tuesday afternoon on the complaint filed against suspects Roswil Cero Antanoy, 29, of Barangay Cabang, Jimalalud; Edilberto Torres Pancho, 41, of Barangay San Jose, Tanjay City; Reynante Baylon Rubia, 36, of Barangay Maluay, Zamboanguita; Nelcher Abril Abordo, 24, of Barangay Malabuhan, Siaton; and Jason Torres Ramos, 31, resident of Sitio Bondo, Barangay Napacao also in Siaton, all in Negros Oriental.
They were accused of having allegedly shot to death four farmers, namely, Jessebel Amantillo Abayle, 34; her mother, Carmelina Garingo Amantillo, 57; Consolacion Esparcia Cadevida, 66, all residents of Sitio Bondo in Barangay Napacao, Siaton; and Felimon Torres Molero, 66, a resident of Sitio Salngan in Barangay Mayabon, Zamboanguita, and the wounding of another farmer, identified as Lito Prudencia de Jesus, 28, of Barangay Mantiquil in Siaton.
The incident stemmed from the harvest of sugarcane by the slain farmers and some of their companions who are claiming a right to the property in question being petitioners for inclusion as beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
The Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (Paro) in Negros Oriental, however, disclosed that only two of the five who were killed last February 21 at the disputed Vicente Gaspar landholdings in Napacao, Siaton town, were petitioners.
Defense counsel Mark Christoffel Banquerigo earlier said they would be filing the counter-affidavits of his clients hopefully by Friday.
The suspects were arrested last February 21, hours after the shooting incident in Barangay Napacao and who police said were security guards of the Nico Security Agency.
However, one of them, Jason Ramos, claimed to be not a security guard but was there at the time of the incident, being the son of Rustico Ramos, the caretaker of the Vicentes and who lives in the farmhouse of the landowner in Napacao.
Lawyer Banquerigo said the investigating prosecutor had terminated the preliminary investigation Tuesday afternoon after clarificatory questions were made, with or without the respondents’ counter-affidavits because of the 15-day time frame prescribed by law.
He said the delay in the submission of his clients’ counter-affidavits was due to the gathering of additional evidence for the defense as well as interviewing witnesses for the respondents.
Banquerigo also said that during the preliminary investigation, the assistant prosecutor dwelled only on the multiple murder charges as there were no attachments for the frustrated murder, such as the affidavit of the complainant, among others.
The complainant, Lito Prudencia de Jesus, who survived the shooting, is still recuperating in the hospital and under tight security, a police source said.
The defense lawyer, Banquerigo, also clarified that he is representing the respondents only for the criminal complaints but another lawyer is handling the agrarian reform case at the Gaspar Vicente landholdings. (PNA)