Indictment of 10 Navy personnel in Pestaño slay upheld
The Court of Appeals has affirmed the indictment and the issuance of arrest warrants against 10 active and retired Philippine Navy personnel in connection with the alleged murder of ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño in 1995.
In a seven-page decision dated April 29 and released Friday, the appellate court’s Special Sixth Division said the Manila Regional Trial Court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause and ordering the arrest of the suspects in 2013.
Facing murder charges were retired Naval Capt. Ricardo Ordonez; Commander Reynaldo Lopez; Lt. Commanders Luidegar Casis, Alfrederick Alba and Joselito Colico; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Welmenio Aquino; Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Sandy Miranda, and retired Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Igcasan.
The appeals tribunal said rules were complied with since the judge personally read the records of the case and was satisfied that based on the pieces of evidence submitted, a crime had been committed and that the persons to be arrested were probably guilty.
“[T]he judge issued the warrants of arrest against the petitioners after finding probable cause existed by personally examining the records of the case. [T]he judge was satisfied that a crime has been committed and that accused are probably guilty of murder,” the court said in the decision written by Justice Nina Antonio-Valenzuela.
The petitioners, who are currently detained at the Manila City Jail, had argued that there was no probable cause to arrest them because the evidence in the case “overwhelmingly” shows they were not guilty of murder.
But the court said it was not persuaded by the argument, adding the judge was under no obligation to review the evidence of the petitioners in detail.
“At the stage of determining probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest, a judge is not yet tasked to review in detail the evidence submitted during the preliminary investigation. The judge merely determines the probability, not the certainty, of the guilt of the accused. He simply personally reviews the prosecution’s initial determination finding probable cause, to see if it is supported by substantial evidence,” the court ruled.
The other division members, Justices Manuel Barrios and Agnes Reyes-Carpio, concurred in the decision.
Pestaño, 23, was found dead of a gunshot wound inside his cabin on the naval supply ship BRP Bacolod City on Sept. 27, 1995.
The Navy said Pestaño committed suicide but his parents Felipe and Evelyn said their son was murdered because he was about to expose anomalies on the ship.
In 2012, the Office of the Ombudsman recommended the filing of murder charges against the Navy men and ordered their dismissal from service.
A separate division of the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissals while another division denied a plea by the accused to quash the criminal case against them.
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