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DOJ clears 3 cops tagged in QC prosecutor’s murder

Family of Rogelio Velasco ‘sad, devasted’ while NBI says it will file appeal

MANILA, Philippines — Saying the pieces of evidence against the accused were “inadmissible, unbelievable, untrue and contradictory,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared the three policemen charged with the murder of Quezon City Deputy Prosecutor Rogelio Velasco in 2018.

In a 36-page resolution issued earlier this month, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong dismissed for “insufficient evidence” the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against Police Pat. Jose Lunar Mercado, Police Senior Master Sergeant Rodante Sicat Lalimarmo and Police Staff Sergeant Arthur Yasonia Lucy.

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According to Ong, the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who claimed they saw Mercado in the white Toyota Innova that blocked the victim’s van appeared “unbelievable, if not coached.”

“Complainants should not rely on speculations and conjectures to support their case. Mere speculations and probabilities cannot substitute for proof required to establish the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.

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Reached for initial comment, Velasco’s daughter, Victoria, said they were “heartbroken…sad and devastated” by the DOJ decision released almost a year after his death.

She told the Inquirer that her family had yet to read Ong’s May 8 resolution although the NBI said it would file an appeal.

Velasco, who was also Quezon City’s chief inquest prosecutor, was driving his van when he was ambushed by four gunmen on board a white Innova on May 11, 2018, along Holy Spirit Drive in the city.

He was the 13th prosecutor in the country to be murdered since 1992 and the second to be killed in the city after Johanne Noel Mingoa, who was gunned down in January 2017.

Case based on CCTV footage

The NBI had based the case against the policemen on footage taken by closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the Quezon Memorial Circle parking lot—the alleged staging area for the ambush.

Mercado, Lalimarmo and other unidentified individuals were supposedly seen boarding the white Innova an hour before it was spotted cutting off Velasco’s vehicle.

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Lucy was also allegedly caught on video walking around the Quezon City Hall complex where Velasco worked.

However, the DOJ found little merit in the footage since the Innova’s plate number and the suspects’ faces were unclear.

It also noted that the NBI investigators submitted the footage to “strengthen their theory” of animosity between Mercado, who was seen by witnesses inside Velasco’s office.

Velasco was hearing the case against Mercado’s brother, Edgardo Lunar, who had been charged with possession of illegal firearms and violation of section 13 of Republic Act 9165.

All three policemen had denied the murder charge against them, saying they were in different places at the time of the ambush.

Accused’s alibis

Mercado said he was in Candelaria, Quezon province, while Lucy and Lalimarmo claimed they were in Commonwealth and Novaliches, Quezon City, respectively.

The DOJ also noted inconsistencies in the testimonies of Angelita Fermano and Gil Cuaro. They claimed that their van, which at that time was tailing Velasco’s van, was cut off twice by the suspects’ Innova near the Philcoa area and Tandang Sora flyover.

“It was impossible for the two vehicles to be travelling on the same lane on Commonwealth Avenue and for one to cut the other’s way,” Ong wrote.

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TAGS: Arthur Yasonia Lucy, DoJ, Jose Lunar Mercado, murder case, Rodante Sicat Lalimarmo, Rogelio Velasco
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