12-year court puzzle: Jailed man an NPA rebel or not?
Twelve years after the accused was charged, a Quezon City court has ordered the prosecution to prove that he is the man they claim him to be.
On Wednesday, Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98 directed the prosecution to present evidence that Eduardo Serrano—a peasant leader detained since 2004—is Rogelio Villanueva or Ka Makling, a New People’s Army member charged with the ambush of a group of Army soldiers in 2003.
Tamang issued the directive after the Court of Appeals ordered the lower court to resolve the issue over the accused’s identity 12 years after the filing of the case against him.
“The prosecution is sternly warned that should it fail to adduce any evidence in the next scheduled setting, the matter on the identity of the accused shall be deemed submitted for resolution,” the judge said.
She added that the appellate court’s decision “effectively orders this court [QCRTC Branch 98] to suspend the arraignment of the accused Eduardo Serrano until the issue of his identity is finally resolved.”
“With the decision of the Court of Appeals, the [12-year] lull in the proceedings will finally be put to [an] end,” said the judge who noted that she inherited the case when she assumed office in June.
The court order also subpoenaed the prosecution witnesses–1Lt. Alex Dalingay Ampati, Sgt. Berling Farinas and Pfc. Gilbert Dalin Turingan—all from the Bravo Company of the 68th Infantry Battalion 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Oriental Mindoro province.
Following his arrest in Lipa, Batangas province, Serrano was presented by the military as Villanueva, one of the accused in the Oriental Mindoro ambush, which left four Army soldiers dead and another wounded.
Serrano was transferred to the Philippine National Police custodial center when the case of multiple murder, frustrated murder and robbery was transferred from Oriental Mindoro to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
The defense filed several motions to dismiss the case against Serrano on grounds that he was not Villanueva. However, these were all denied.
In 2011, the prosecution amended the information against the accused, saying Eduardo Serrano was one of Villanueva’s aliases. The defense filed for certiorari in the appellate court, which ordered the lower court in July to resolve the issue over Serrano’s identity.–Erika Sauler
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