Arraignment of Degamo slay suspects reset
MANILA, Philippines — A Manila court reset the arraignment of 11 suspects in the March 4 killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and nine others, after defense lawyers formally questioned their arrest and raised several other issues, including the suspects’ recent recantations and claims that they were tortured into confessing while in police custody.
The accused were supposed to be arraigned on Wednesday before Judge Marianthe Pacita Manzano Zuraek of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 51.
The accused were Joven Javier, Romel Pattaguan, Dahniel Lora, Osmundo Rivero, Rogelio Antipolo Jr., Joric Labrador, Benjie Rodriguez, Winrich Isturis, Eulogio Gonyon Jr., John Louie Gonyon, and Marbin Miranda.
But the proceedings were moved to July 19 as their lawyers filed motions to quash the information against the suspects, remand their case to the Department of Justice (DOJ), submit them to a medical examination, suppress their earlier sworn statements, and keep them at the National Bureau of Investigation instead of moving them to Manila City Jail.
Speaking to reporters, lawyer Danny Villanueva, one of the defense counsels, said his clients’ detention was unlawful since “they were not arrested at the scene of the crime” or “in a hot pursuit as they were not the subject of a manhunt operation.”
Villanueva said they had also asked that a doctor examine his clients to prove that they had been tortured. Fearing for their lives, the suspects also asked the court not to approve their transfer to the city jail.
The court gave DOJ prosecutors 15 days to respond to the motions.
On May 28, Javier, Pattaguan, Lora, Rivero, and Antipolo Jr. retracted their statements in which they admitted participation in the Degamo killing and tagged Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves and Miranda as the masterminds.
Five other accused had also recanted earlier; only Miranda, Teves’ bodyguard, had not made a confession.
Citing the recantations of 10 out of the 11 suspects, Villanueva said: “From the very start, I don’t think there is a solid case, not only against Cong. Teves Jr. but against my clients as well.”