Baseball bat attack on lawyer downgraded to ‘simple physical injuries’
CEBU, Philippines—The legal wife is free to go.
Pearl Ungab, the angry spouse who went after a lady lawyer with a baseball bat and rammed her car, was ordered released from police custody yesterday.
The judge required no bail since the Cebu City prosecutor downgraded the charge to slight physical injuries from the original complaint of frustrated murder.
The Feb. 26 confrontation between the wife of Ronda town Vice Mayor Jonah John Ungab and his former law firm associate Jiecel Tiu has shocked the legal community and remains closely watched as a rare public display of violence involving a spouse and two of their members amid allegations of infidelity.
As of 6 p.m. last night, the 41-year-old wife remained in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. A medical certificate was presented to the judge saying she was pregnant and suffering from a “threatened abortion.”
The case will go to trial but Tiu’s campus was unsatisfied with the initial result.
Her lawyer Rex Fernandez said they will contest the ruling and seek the inhibition of the prosecutor. Her sister Alisha, a lawyer, said they would hold a press conference Wednesday.
No intent to kill
In downgrading the charge, Prosecutor Liceria Lofranco-Rabillas said the wife showed “no intention to kill” and that the degree of Tiu’s injuries lacked a certification stating the period of medical attention needed.
If the wife “had the intention to kill the complainant, she could have used a gun or other weapon to ensure that the complainant will be dead,” Rabillas said.
“Though a baseball bat may be considered a weapon, yet the manner it was used by the respondent in assaulting the complainant, that is she only got it from her Navara (pickup truck) after she tried to stop the complainant from leaving the parking area, would readily show that she does not have any intention to kill the complainant,” she added.
The prosecutor said there was no “treachery and evident premeditation” in the way the assault was done to qualify the crime as murder.
The March 2 medical certificate of Tiu said the lawyer suffered a hematoma or deep bruise in the left ear, left shoulder, left knee and hand, aside from scratches and cuts.
She was discharged from the Cebu City Medical Center immediately after treatment of her wounds.
The resolution was approved by Acting Cebu City Prosecutor Ma. Luisa Ratilla.
It cited a Supreme Court ruling which states that “the crime is slight physical injuries, if there is no proof as to the period of the offended party’s incapacity for labor or of the required medical attendance.”
Executive Judge Monalila Tecson of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) ordered the release of Pearl from police custody Tuesday.
It was Tiu who effected a “citizen’s arrest” on Pearl right after the assault five days ago, according to the prosecutor’s resolution.
The lady lawyer in a Monday press conference flatly denied that she was the paramour of the vice mayor and appealed to Jonah John Ungab, her former law firm associate to clear her name.
But there is no mention of jealousy or unfaithfulness as the motivation of the Feb. 26 attack in the resolution. Prosecutor Rabillas explained this was because none was mentioned in Tiu’s complaint.
According to Tiu in her complaint, she was about to drive out from the parking area of her law firm in Centro Maximo Building when Mrs. Ungab confronted her and chased her with a baseball bat, smashing the rear window.
Out of fear, Tiu drove her Toyota Vios sedan towards the Citom office on Echavez Extension with the wife tailing her, and ramming the car from behind several times.
Later the wife got down, broke the car window and repeatedly swung the baseball bat at Tiu’s head and face, while trying to drag her out. The timely appearance of a Citom officer stopped the assault. She was placed under hospital arrest after she complained of “spotting” or light bleeding due to her pregnancy.
Vice Mayor Ungab’s brother Jonald on Tuesday appeared in court on behalf of the pregnant woman. He presented a medical certificate to the court to justify her absence.
It said Mrs. Ungab has “uterine pregnancy (development of fetus within the uterus)” and is suffering from “threatened abortion” and “soft tissue injuries due to assault.”
The document was signed by Dr. Antonio Paradela M.D., FPCS, who serves as Chief of Professional Medical Clinics of VSMMC. He recommended that the woman stay at the hospital “for complete bed rest until further notice.”
As of yesterday afternoon, the wife was in the hospital waiting for her clearance to be discharged.
“So far, there’s has been no advice yet,” she told CDN.
“The other camp is looking for a medical certificate to prove that I’m pregnant and sick. So here it is. . . I’m nonetheless happy with the turnout of the case filed against me,” she added.
Prosecutor Rabillas said the court already has jurisdiction of the case so filing a motion for reconsideration would be useless.
But an aggrieved party can seek a review by the Regional State Prosecutor or the Department of Justice before Mrs. Ungab is arragined, she said.
She said she recommended bail of P2,000 because the wife underwent inquest proceedings but that bail is not required in a case of slight physical injuries.
MTCC Executive Judge Tecson dropped the bail recommendation and followed summary procedure by ordering the wife to appear in court and submit her counter-affidavit and those of her witnesses within 10 days.
The offense of slight physical injuries draws a potential prison term of one day to 30 days under the Section 266 of the Revised Penal Code.
In an interview last Sunday, Mrs. Ungab admitted smashing the lawyer’s car with a baseball bat but denied striking her.
The wife said she acted out of anger, not jealousy, because the lawyer fired pepper spray on her face during their confrontation and bumped her and her two-year-old daughter when the sedan backed up.
Vice Mayor Ungab has kept a low profile.
“As much as possible, I want to hold my silence to protect further dmage this issue may bring to all parties especially to my children,” he said in a message to CDN.
Lawyer thought she would die
Here’s how lawyer Jiecel Tiu described being attacked with a baseball bat in her affidavit-complaint. This account is taken from the prosecutor’s resolution:
On Feb. 26, 2015 at about past 5:30 p.m., Tiu was on board her red Toyota Vios sedan about to leave the parking lot of Centro Maximo Building in Cebu City where her law office is located when Pearl Ungab entered the “exit” area driving her black Nissan Navara, a 4-wheel drive pickup.
The wife blocked her way out so the lawyer didn’t start the car. Pearl then blocked the exit area for several minutes then blocked half of the back of the lawyer’s car and finally parked in a vacant space. Tiu then left. When she was about to drive out of the exit area, Pearl ran towards her car, banged the right passenger window with her fist and tried to open the door. Since she couldn’t open the door, she ran back to her pickup and chased Tiu with a baseball bat. Using the bat, Pearl smashed the back passenger window of the lawyer’s car. Scared and hoping to avoid Pearl, the lawyer hurriedly left the parking area.
Pearl tailed her car to Jakosalem Street and intentionally rammed the lawyer’s sedan hard enough so that Tiu was pushed forward and her glasses fell off. The lawyer continued to drive her car, turning right to Cogon Market with Pearl still chasing her and trying to overtake her. The wife then bumped both passenger doors of the lawyer’s sedan.
Terrified, the lawyer stopped in front of the CITOM office in Cogon Ramos thinking the “police visibility” would deter Pearl. Instead, Pearl again bumped the rear and the right passenger door of the lawyer’s car.
Pearl alighted from her Navara pickup and with the baseball bat, deliberately smashed the left side and the left window of the driver’s side of the car. When the window was broken, Pearl repeatedly swung the baseball bat at her, aiming it at her head and face. Tiu tried hard to turn her body away to evade the blows.
Pearl was able to open the car door and continued to strike her with the baseball bat. Pearl then grabbed her shirt and tried to drag the lawyer out of her car, and continued hitting her with the bat.
Tiu said that she kept shouting for help as she believed it was already her end.
A Citom officer came to her rescue and restrained Pearl from further hitting the lawyer. Jiecel said that were it not for the Citom officer who took the baseball bat away from Pearl, the wife would have inflicted more fatal blows on her.
Pearl tried to run away. The lawyer shouted to onlookers to restrain her, which they did. With the assistance of PO1 Hernandez, she effected a citizen’s arrest on Pearl. The Citom officer turned over the baseball bat to PO1 Hernandez who brought Pearl to the police station.