New witnesses coming out for Nicole, says lawyer
Stray bullet victim’s parents, pastor keep hopes upBy Nancy C. Carvajal |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Three new witnesses have come forward to help authorities pinpoint the shooter responsible for the death of stray bullet victim Nicole Stephanie Ella, according to a lawyer now helping the family of the seven-year-old girl from Caloocan City.
“We appeal that these witnesses be immediately placed under the government’s witness protection program,” said Harry Roque, who went to the National Bureau of Investigation on Friday along with Nicole’s parents and their religious pastor.
He said the witnesses, whose statements “were consistent with the forensic results” earlier produced by investigators, will be presented to the NBI anytime next week.
Police action and media attention on Nicole’s case had gradually waned, but Roque’s disclosure could revive hopes of finding the triggerman.
Nicole was hit in the head by a stray bullet while watching New Year’s Eve fireworks in front of her house on San Lorenzo Ruiz Street in Malaria, Barangay 185, Caloocan. She died two days later in the hospital.
The death of the talented, studious girl sparked clamors for stricter gun controls in the country.
On the day she was buried, her local church launched a signature campaign demanding justice for Nicole. The next day, President Aquino offered a P2-million reward for the killer’s arrest.
Roque said his services were sought by Jay Ella, the victim’s father, who remains hopeful that the still unidentified gunman will be brought to justice.
“They (the parents) are worried that the furor over the incident has died down and no progress in the investigation has been reported more than a month after Nicole’s death,” the lawyer added.
Roque, the Ella couple, and Pastor Renato Franco of Lord’s Flock parish in Malaria met with NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas to get an assurance from the bureau that its investigation into Nicole’s death hasn’t stopped.
“We’re still convinced that the case will be solved because there are still witnesses who will help us,” Jay Ella said.
Franco said the signature campaign initiated by his parish had gained the support of several politicians in and outside Caloocan.
He said it seeks justice not only for Nicole but for all victims of indiscriminate firing, longer prison terms for the offenders, and stiffer penalties for public officials and law enforcers who violate gun control laws.
The petition also opposes the practice of giving amnesty to unregistered gun owners or those whose licenses had expired, he said.
It also calls for stricter requirements for gun ownership and a limit on the number of guns that can be procured or carried even by government officials, Franco added.