Esperat family seeks arrest of alleged masterminds in her murder
MANILA, Philippines—The family of slain Mindanao journalist Marlene Esperat has asked a Makati court to issue alias warrants for the arrest of the alleged masterminds of her murder, Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, both regional officials of the Department of Agriculture.
According to a motion filed with the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 138 by Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, private prosecutor representing the Esperat family, there is no more legal obstacle to the arrest of the accused and the resumption of criminal proceedings against them.
She said trial of the case was suspended after the Court of Appeals division in Cagayan de Oro City granted the prayer of both accused for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction sometime in November 2009.
But last August 21, the same appellate court threw out the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the accused.
Quinsayas also explained that they were asking for alias warrants because the original warrants of arrest issued by a Cebu City judge had not been served.
However, both Montañer, Department of Agriculture Region XII finance officer, and Sabay, his chief accountant, opposed the Esperat camp’s motion, saying they already appealed the court ruling denying their petition for certiorari and prohibition.
They claimed that the appellate court which denied their petition did not revoke the writ of preliminary injunction it earlier issued. They added that the Court of Appeals’ decision was not yet final on account of the pendency of their motion for reconsideration.
“Thus, the issuance of alias warrant is still not warranted, considering that the said decision has not yet been ‘finally resolved’ and the writ of preliminary injunction not ‘revoked’,” both accused said in the opposition they filed in court.
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 Department of Agriculture in central Mindanao, had filed graft cases against former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and other agriculture department 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 agriculture department 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 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.
The case is now being handled by Makati RTC Branch 138 after the Supreme Court ordered its transfer from the Tacurong City court in September 2009.
In October 2008, approximately two years after the conviction of the gunman in Esperat’s killing and his accomplices, the prosecutors re-filed murder charges against Montañer and Sabay in the Tacurong Regional Trial Court. The case was earlier filed at the Cebu City Regional Trial Court, but the Court of Appeals in Cebu City granted the alleged masterminds’ petition prohibiting the RTC judge from hearing the case.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.