Supreme Court affirms life terms on Abu Sayyaf members
The Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction and life sentences meted out to 17 Abu Sayyaf members who abducted nurse Ediborah Yap, who later died, and three other nurses of a government hospital in Lamitan, Basilan, 10 years ago.
In its automatic review of the case, the high tribunal also upheld the Court of Appeals’ order directing the convicted terrorists to pay P200,000 in moral damages to the family of Yap and to kidnap victims Shiela Tabuñag, Reina Malonzo and Joel Guillo.
The appellate court also ordered the convicts to pay an additional P150,000 in civil indemnity and exemplary damages to Yap’s heirs.
“The court finds no reason to reverse or modify the ruling and penalty imposed by the (appellate court),” the high tribunal said in its June 22 ruling penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.
“The court cannot find anything on record to justify deviation from said rule,” it added.
Records showed that a group of heavily-armed Abu Sayyaf members led by Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sabaya entered the town of Lamitan and occupied the Dr. Jose Torres Memorial Hospital where the four victims were then working as nurses on June 1, 2001.
The terror group, who had with them the foreign hostages they had earlier abducted from a resort in Palawan, also occupied the nearby St. Peter’s Church.
Although government forces were able to cordon off the area, the terrorists managed to escape, seizing the four nurses as new hostages.
Four months later, Guillo was able to escape from their abductors while Tabuñag and Malonzo were released on separate occasions.
A year after the abduction, Yap was killed along with fellow hostage, American missionary Martin Burnham, in a crossfire during a rescue operation by the military.
On Aug. 13, 2004, the Isabela City regional trial court found the 17 accused guilty of kidnapping beyond reasonable doubt and meted out the death penalty to them.
Convicted in absentia
Of the accused, four Abu Sayyaf members—Toting Hano Jr., Jaid Awalal, Mubin Ibbah and Annik/Rene Abbas—were convicted in absentia.
In its decision, the high court upheld the appellate court’s Nov. 24, 2008, ruling which threw out the accused’s defense of alibi and denial.
The appellate court also modified the convicts’ death sentences to life imprisonment after Congress abolished capital punishment.
The tribunal likewise rejected the petition of four accused—Wahid Salcedo, Magarni Hapilon Iblong, Nadzmer Mandangan and Kamar Jaafar—who asked the court to commit them to a rehabilitation center for the youth since they were minors when the crime was committed.
“(T)he evidence before the court show that accused-appellants Iblong, Mandangan, Salcedo and Jaafar were not minors at the time of the commission of the crime,” the magistrates said.
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