CA junks plea of suspects in Esperat killing
The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the petition of the alleged masterminds in the killing of journalist Marlene Esperat to dismiss the charges against them.
In a 26-page ruling, the Court of Appeals 21st Division in Cagayan de Oro City threw out the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by accused Osmeña Montañer, Department of Agriculture (DA) Region XII finance officer, and Estrella Sabay, his chief accountant.
The appellate court ruled that Montañer and Sabay’s petition constituted “forum shopping” since a similar petition had been dismissed by the tribunal’s 8th Division in Manila on October 15, 2008.
“The petitioners are guilty of forum shopping… Petitioners have not appealed the (8th Division’s ruling) which had thus attained finality. Petitioners are bound hereto,” said the 21st Division’s ruling.
“Hence, the present petition constitutes forum-shopping on their part and is a ground for dismissal of this special civil action,” it added.
Lawyer Nena Santos, counsel of the Esperat family, said they would now move to have the two accused arrested.
“This case is considered by the media among its flagship cases because of the interest it generated in the international press due to the involvement of ranking public officials,” said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“It is one of the few media murder cases where direct evidence against the mastermind is strong,” she added.
On March 24, 2005, Maundy Thursday, gunmen barged into Esperat’s home in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat and shot her dead while she was having dinner with her daughters.
Esperat, then the Ombudsman of the DA in central Mindanao, had filed graft cases against former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and other ranking agriculture officials in connection with a P432-million fertilizer scam in 2003. The case was investigated by the Senate and it implicated former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.
Esperat had also filed graft charges against other ranking DA officials for, among other things, the alleged smuggling of P23-million worth of chicken quarters from the United States in 2004. Montañer and Sabay were among the DA officials charged with graft.
Esperat later left the government service and became a crusading journalist at Central Mindanao’s Midland Review.
Montañer and Sabay had sought a reprieve from the Court of Appeals after the Regional Trial Court of Tacurong City in April 2009 dismissed for lack of merit their motion to quash the charges against them for the killing of Esperat.
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