Kristelle “Kae” Davantes slay suspect’s guilty plea ‘not voluntary’
The arraignment of the three suspects in the killing of advertising manager Kristelle “Kae” Davantes took a surprising turn Tuesday, when the primary accused entered a guilty plea that was later reversed by the presiding Las Piñas City judge.
When the charge of robbery with homicide was read to him, Samuel Decimo, the first suspect to be arrested, pleaded guilty. His alleged cohorts, meanwhile, Jorek Evangelista and Jomar Pepito, entered a not guilty plea.
But Judge Salvador Timbang of Las Piñas Regional Trial Court-Branch 253 changed Decimo’s plea to not guilty, after the court found out that what he earlier did was “not voluntary,” according to the clerk of court, Leamor Garcia.
Mark Estepa, the lead state prosecutor, later explained that when a guilty plea was entered for a capital offense, the judge would be required to verify if the plea was voluntary, which was what Timbang did.
Decimo was called to the witness stand so the lawyers could “question the circumstances of the guilty plea,” Estepa told the Inquirer. “It turned out that he entered a guilty plea because an NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) agent advised him to admit the crime to get a lighter punishment.”
“When we asked [Decimo] if he’d still plead guilty if the penalty was reclusion perpetua, he answered ‘I don’t know’ and appeared to be breaking into tears,” Estepa said.
“The judge ruled that the plea was not voluntary, because [Decimo] was motivated by other considerations suggested by the NBI,” the prosecutor said.
The NBI arrested Decimo on Sept. 20 as a suspect in the robbery and killing of Davantes, whose body was found under a bridge in Silang, Cavite province, in the early morning of Sept. 7.
Decimo later admitted in media interviews that his group abducted Davantes and commandeered her car as she was about to enter her house in Moonwalk Village, Las Piñas. He also admitted strangling the woman and stabbing her in the neck.
In Tuesday’s hearing, the prosecution asked Decimo if his out-of-court confession was voluntary. The accused answered yes.
But the victim’s uncle, Vince Davantes, who attended the hearing, noted that Decimo’s behavior during his arraignment “cast doubt on the case as presented by the NBI.”
“There are nagging points that still need to be investigated,” he said.
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