Ex-PNP exec cleared of Cebu businessman’s killing
DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — The former police intelligence officer tagged in the 2014 slaying of Cebuano businessman and hotel owner Richard King walked out of jail here on Tuesday after the court acquitted him of murder.
Leonardo Felonia, former chief of the regional police intelligence unit here, was cleared in a decision released on Tuesday by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 acting Judge Gerardo Braganza.
King, 56, was killed inside his Vital C. Building on Lacson Street here on June 12, 2014. He was the owner of the Crown Regency Group of Hotels, the CEO of J. Kings and Sons Inc., and Vital C Health Products; president of Fuente Triangle Realty Development Corp. (FTRDC); and founder and director of Boracay Multiple Developers Inc.
Braganza, in his decision, said the prosecution failed to convince the court that Felonia was part of the conspiracy to commit the crime.
The court said Paul Dave Labang, the suspected gunman who was tapped by the prosecution as the main witness, failed to prove that Felonia was indeed the mastermind.
The prosecution failed “to establish the moral certainty required to convict” Felonia, it said.
“The court reiterates that the act or declaration of a conspirator relating to conspiracy and during its existence may be given in evidence against a coconspirator, but after the conspiracy is over, it must be shown by evidence other than such act of declaration, hence, the prosecution has fallen short of the parameters,” said part of Braganza’s 22-page decision.
He cited the result of a forensic examination done by the police on Labang’s two cellular phones and two SIM cards on July 4, 2014. It showed that there was no incoming call registered in Labang’s phone two days before and on the day of King’s murder, which could have linked Felonia to the case.
The only phone call that the police found was made on June 20, 2014, which was eight days after King was killed. Hence, the judge said there was no evidence that linked Felonia to King’s murder.
In junking the case against the police official, the judge pointed out that there was no proof of Labang’s claim that Felonia ordered a subordinate to call him to report to the police officer’s office on the day of the crime.
Labang had claimed that two days before the crime was committed, he visited Felonia’s office, where the latter allegedly handed him an envelope containing King’s picture and P120,000 in advance payment.
The court, however, said that “independent evidence tells otherwise.”
Rodel dela Cerna, manager of the shooting range frequented by Felonia and where Labang was working, and Dela Cerna’s brother, Rommel, also implicated Felonia in the crime. Rodel was tagged as the driver of the getaway motorcycle while Rommel allegedly conducted the surveillance and served as a lookout.
The Dela Cerna brothers, however, had earlier entered a guilty plea for the lesser offense of homicide while Labang turned state witness.
As Felonia walked out of the Davao City police office’s detention cell at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, his lawyer, Caesar Europa, said his client might use the ruling to secure the reinstatement of his benefits from the Philippine National Police.
“[This is] his first taste of freedom after suffering for so long … It’s really a vindication for him. Ayaw muna niya magsalita (He won’t speak for now) but he is very excited and very happy about the result,” Europa told reporters in a Zoom meeting.
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