MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has upheld the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to exclude former Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin from among those indicted in connection with the Nov. 13, 2007, Batasang Pambansa bombing.
In a ruling dated Feb. 25 but released only last Friday, the Court’s Third Division set aside two resolutions of the Court of Appeals in 2008 that reversed the DOJ’s finding that there was no probable cause to indict Salapuddin for being part of the bomb attack in the House of Representatives building.
The decision was penned by division chair Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., with members Justices Diosdado Peralta, Roberto Abad, Jose Mendoza and Marvic Leonen, concurring in the ruling.
The justices said the rules of court provide that the justice secretary’s reversal or modification of the findings of the investigating prosecutors is not subject to court review unless there is a showing that the secretary committed a grave abuse of discretion or acted beyond his or her jurisdiction.
Killed in the bombing were Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar, who had succeeded Salapuddin as representative and four other Batasan employees. Five others, including lawmakers Henry Teves and Luzviminda Ilagan, were wounded.
Investigation revealed that the explosion was caused by an improvised bomb planted on a motorcycle that was parked near the entrance stairs of the South Wing lobby.
The police raided on Nov. 15, 2007, an alleged Abu Sayyaf safe house in Payatas, Quezon City, which resulted in the deaths of three suspects and the arrest of three others, including Adham Kusain and Ikram Indama, both of whom admitted knowing Salapuddin.
A pistol found on the premises was traced to the former congressman’s political affairs assistant.
Kusain, who said he was a scholar of Salapuddin’s, admitted owning the motorcycle on which the bomb was placed but said that his cousin Redwan, who was among those killed in the raid, had bought it from him. Kusain said he was in Manila to get the payment from Redwan.
Kusain later recanted his admissions.
Ikram, on the other hand, claimed he used to be Salapuddin’s driver and that his cousin Redwan told him about the plot to kill Akbar. Ikram said he was the one who brought the motorcycle to the Batasan. He later also claimed that he was with Redwan when Salapuddin ordered the former to kill Akbar.
Salapuddin denied any knowledge of the bombing, asserting that his name was being used by the media only because of his relationship to the persons arrested in connection with the incident.
The police endorsed Salapuddin’s inclusion in the murder and multiple frustrated murder cases filed against the suspects in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno approved Salapuddin’s inclusion in February 2008.
Upon Salapuddin’s appeal, however, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez removed the former congressman from those to be indicted. Akbar’s wife, Jum, and Nor-Rhama Indanan, wife of one of those wounded in the blast, filed for certiorari case in the Court of Appeals questioning Gonzalez’s resolution.