NGO backs child witness in murder rap vs EspinoBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“Listen to the child speak, and you will know that he is telling the truth.”
Akap Bata, a nongoverment organization advocating for children’s rights and welfare, gave this piece of advice to the family of Infanta, Pangasinan Mayor Ruperto Martinez, who was shot dead in front of his residence on Dec. 15, 2012.
Gloria dela Cruz, Akap Bata spokesperson, said the group is willing to arrange a meeting between the family of the late mayor and a witness who claimed that the mayor’s murder was masterminded by Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., Rep. Jesus “Boying” Celeste and newspaper publisher Jaime Aquino.
“If the family of Mayor Martinez so wishes, we can ask the foster parent of the witness to allow the boy to talk to them so that they will know how the murder of Mayor Martinez was planned and carried out,” Dela Cruz said in a statement.
The witness, a 16-year-old son of Aquino, told investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation that he was present when Espino, Celeste and his father Jaime discussed the plan to kill Mayor Martinez during a meeting at El Pescador Beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan.
The boy said Espino and Celeste ordered the killing of Martinez after the mayor learned that the pier in Infanta was being used to smuggle precious minerals out of Pangasinan.
Based on the witness’ testimony, the NBI filed murder charges against Espino, Celeste and Aquino at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
On Tuesday, however, Martinez’s wife, Crisanta, filed a sworn statement at the DOJ clearing Espino and Celeste of allegations that the two plotted her husband’s killing.
Espino also filed a counter-affidavit denying any participation in the murder, calling Martinez a “personal friend” and political ally.
Dela Cruz said Akap Bata understands why it is difficult for Martinez’s family to accept the witness’s allegations.
“The Martinez family considers Governor Espino and Representative Celeste as close friends of the late mayor. It is really difficult to accept the possibility that a friend and party mate was the one who had Mayor Martinez killed,” she said.
According to Dela Cruz, if only the Martinez family would talk to the boy witness, they would know the real story of why the mayor was ordered killed.
“We believe the witness. He is a very bright boy and a very credible witness, according to NBI investigators,” she added.
Dela Cruz also said her group is not the same as the Akap Bata party-list group, which is seeking a seat in the House of Representatives.
Akap Bata is instrumental in taking Aquino’s teenage son to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for custody.
The teenage witness sought refuge at Akap Bata to allegedly escape his abusive father. It was during the interview with social workers that the boy narrated what he learned about the Martinez murder.