DOJ to proceed with murder probe of Espino
Panel rejects gov’s request to stop initial investigation
DAGUPAN CITY—The Department of Justice (DOJ) junked the request of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., Rep. Jesus Celeste and newspaperman Jaime Aquino to suspend the preliminary investigation of the December 2012 murder of Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez, saying a complaint had already been filed against them.
Martinez was killed on Dec. 15, 2012, in front of his house in Barangay Cato in Infanta town. The suspected killers, Ricardo Legarda and Richard Manuel, were arrested two days later. They are now detained at the provincial jail in Lingayen town.
Espino, Celeste and Aquino were tied to the murder based on the alleged testimony of Aquino’s 16-year-old son, who is under government custody. They denied the allegations, saying Martinez was their ally in their party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and had no motive to have him killed.
In a seven-page order issued on April 8, the DOJ also directed Espino, Celeste and Aquino to submit their counteraffidavits and other controverting evidence last April 15, the day set for the preliminary investigation.
“Thereafter, the preliminary investigation shall be considered closed and terminated, and the case submitted for resolution,” according to the DOJ order signed by Assistant State Prosecutors Olivia Larosa-Torevillas, Rassendell Rex Guingoyon and Aristotle Reyes.
Last month, Espino, Celeste and Aquino asked the three-member DOJ panel to suspend the preliminary investigation, arguing that a petition for a writ of amparo for the 16-year-old witness had been filed in the Supreme Court and that it should be resolved first.
A writ of amparo is a legal remedy for people who believe their rights to life, liberty and security have been threatened by the unlawful actions of the state and its agents. It is a remedy taken by the families of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Aquino had filed the writ to secure his son.
But the DOJ panel said: “Apparently, the invocation of the amparo proceeding is intended to preempt the preliminary investigation of this case … Obviously, the respondents are invoking the remedy of writ of amparo under the pretext of safeguarding their life to liberty in view of their apprehension that the Department of Justice may find probable cause against them.”
The prosecutors concluded that since a criminal complaint had been filed ahead of the amparo proceedings, the proper recourse is to proceed with the preliminary investigation instead of suspending the process. Inquirer Northern Luzon
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