Prosecutors buck military trial for Pestaño suspects
Ombudsman prosecutors have contested the plea of Navy officers charged with the murder of Ensign Philip Pestaño to transfer their case to a military tribunal, but also said they were willing to have the case transferred to the appropriate court if it finds that the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over the case.
In an omnibus motion and opposition filed before the Sandiganbayan Third Division, the prosecutors asked the court to hold in abeyance the resolution of the motion to quash the murder charges filed by the accused.
The prosecutors said they are still checking the contention of Naval Captain Ricardo Ordoñez that his rank was just Lieutenant Commander when Pestaño was found dead aboard the Navy ship that he commanded in 1995.
Had that been the case, the murder charge against Ordoñez and the other Navy officers should not have been filed in the Sandiganbayan.
But according to prosecutors, Ordoñez’s Jan. 6, 2006 counter-affidavit to the murder complaint showed that his rank was Naval Captain. They also said the statement of service that he submitted to the court did not state what his rank was when Pestaño died.
The prosecutors also said Ordoñez’s rank could only be validated once the Navy produces subpoenaed documents.
They also said they subpoenaed the service records of all the accused to determine their exact ranks, status or designations when Pestaño died and when the charges were filed. But the Navy, instead of complying with the subpoena, just forwarded it to the Navy Judge Advocate for comment.
Still, they are willing to withdraw the case if it is shown that it should have been filed in another court.
“The prosecution is amenable to the withdrawal of the information should there be an official document to show that the position of the accused does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan,” they said.
As for the Navy officers’ plea to bring their case to a military tribunal, the prosecutors said Ordoñez has already retired while coaccused Lt. Cmdr. Ruben Roque was no longer in active service.
They also said the jurisdiction of a court martial is limited to service-connected crimes, and murder is not one of them.
In their pleading, the prosecutors also asked the Sandiganbayan not to allow the Navy officers to file their motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman resolution indicting them for murder. They said the five-day period for filing the motion has lapsed.
They also opposed the plea of the accused to lift their hold departure order, saying that since the court has not yet ruled on the jurisdiction over the case, the issuance of a hold departure order was proper since it naturally follows the filing of the charge sheet.
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