Custody battle over witness-son delays amparo hearing

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The Court of Appeals has postponed the hearing on the writ of amparo petition filed by a newspaper publisher who was tagged by his 16-year-old son as a mastermind in the murder of a Pangasinan mayor last year.

Berteni Causing, lawyer for petitioner Jaime Aquino, publisher of the Urdaneta City-based Northern Express Weekly, said that during the hearing the court’s 17th Division learned that a nongovernment group, Akap Bata-Caritas, had filed in the Manila Regional Trial Court a petition for involuntary termination of custody seeking to get the parental authority over the minor.

“Because the two petitions are colliding with each other, permitting the amparo petition to go ahead and letting the involuntary termination of custody petition proceed at the same time will place the two petitions in the possibility of having decisions colliding with each other. Considering this, I said that the most logical thing to do is to consolidate the two cases,” Causing said in a statement posted on his Facebook account.

Aquino’s son is in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The boy and his father were present at the 2 p.m. hearing last Friday but did not speak to each other.

Causing said that during the hearing, he requested that all parties be required to submit simultaneous memoranda or position papers. This was approved by the appellate court, which gave the parties five days to do so.

What he heard

Aquino’s son, according to the NBI, claimed he was at a beach house in Bolinao town in November 2011 where he heard his father, Rep. Jesus Celeste, and Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino plotting to kill Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez.

On Dec. 12, 2012, Martinez was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men hours after a protest rally staged by town residents opposed to a local infrastructure project.

In his amparo petition, Aquino asked the court to release his son to his or the child’s mother’s (Ester) custody. He said his son would not be a credible witness because of his history of drug use, lying and theft.

Aquino added his son had no personal knowledge of the crime nor witnessed it. The publisher said it would be “contrary to habit of life” for a son to seek the imprisonment of his own father.

Aquino also said he feared for the lives of his family, including his son’s, because the congressman and governor’s camps were “extremely angry” at him, thinking he was using his son to implicate them in the killing.—Jerome Aning

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