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2 DA execs charged with Esperat’s slay

By Aquiles Zonio
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 06:46:00 10/23/2008

Filed Under: Crime, Law & Justice

GENERAL SANTOS CITY?The Department of Justice has refiled the murder charges against the two agriculture officials tagged as masterminds in the 2005 murder of journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat.

It was Esperat who blew the whistle on the alleged scam involving fertilizer funds, in which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn ?Jocjoc? Bolante have been implicated. (Bolante is awaiting deportation in a US jail, his plea for political asylum having been repeatedly rejected by American courts.)

Esperat, a former employee of the Department of Agriculture in Central Mindanao (DA-12) and columnist of the Midland Review based in Tacurong City, was shot dead in front of her children in the family home in Tacurong on March 24, 2005.

Four persons were subsequently arrested in connection with the killing.

Army Sgt. Rowie Barua, one of the accused who turned state witness, identified Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, DA-12 finance officer and accountant, respectively, as the masterminds.

But despite Barua?s testimony, the case against Montañer and Sabay were dismissed.

Killers for hire

At the trial held in Cebu City, Barua told the court that the two officials had paid him to hire Jerry Cabayag, Randy Grecia and Estanislao Bismanos to kill Esperat.

Cabayag, the gunman, and Grecia and Bismanos, who served as lookouts, were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 20-40 years in prison.

Esperat?s sister, Valmie Garcia Mariveles, decided to refile the charges against Montañer and Sabay after gathering more evidence that she hoped could pin them down.

Nena Santos, Esperat?s longtime friend and lawyer who served as private prosecutor against the gunman and the two lookouts, said the justice department filed the new case in Judge Melanio Guerrero?s court in Tacurong on Monday.

Clerk of court Pelagio Hilario Jr. confirmed the filing of the charges against Montañer and Sabay and said the two officials had been given 10 days to respond.

Santos, however, said she had learned that the lawyer of the two officials had filed a motion to quash the case.

She said the lawyer had argued that the Tacurong court cleared his clients of the same charges on Aug. 31, 2005.

?We are hoping that the judge will issue a warrant for the arrest of [Montañer and Sabay] as soon as possible,? Santos said.



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