Gun raps vs Angel Manalo ‘upgraded’; bail denied
A Quezon City court denied the motion to fix bail filed by expelled Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) member Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo in connection with the gun charges that have kept him and two other co-accused behind bars for the last seven months.
This was after the court admitted the prosecution’s amended information alleging that Manalo was caught keeping a loaded shotgun among the firearms found by the police when they raided the INC’s Tandang Sora compound in March. It changed the original charge which was based on findings that all the firearms were not loaded at the time they were discovered.
In an order dated Nov. 20, Judge Luisito Cortez of QC Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) Branch 85 said Manalo was “undoubtedly not entitled to bail as a matter of right.”
Cortez explained: “It should be noted that the admission of the Amended Information dated Oct. 9, 2017, resulted in the upgrade of the case against the accused to one degree higher from reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua to reclusion perpetua to death, which makes it a capital offense, saving of course when in the course of trial, the evidence of guilt is not strong against him, only then can he be considered (for) bail.”
The prosecution had explained that “due to inadvertence,” it failed to state in the original charge that one of the firearms seized from No. 36 Tandang Sora Avenue, particularly a shotgun, was loaded.
Under Section 28 of the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition, a penalty one-degree higher should be imposed on a person found in illegal possession of a loaded firearm.
Angel, the estranged brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, was arrested along with his nephew Victor Eraño Hemedez and Jonathan Ledesma, a former Marine officer who allegedly fired at two policemen during the raid.
The three are currently detained at the Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.
Trial in Taguig OKd
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has approved the transfer of Manalo’s trial venue to Bagong Diwa, as requested by Supt. Jose Gemelo Taol, officer in charge of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
Taol said Manalo, Hemedez and Ledesma were considered “high profile inmates” and that transporting them from the camp to QC-RTC for the upcoming hearings would “put in peril the lives” of both the accused and their escorts.
The BJMP official cited the case of the Ampatuans, the principal accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case filed in Quezon City, whose hearings are being held at Bagong Diwa.
“The accused in the present cases are also deemed influential, being relatives of the executive minister of INC Eduardo Manalo,” Taol said in an earlier request letter to the SC.
The arraignment of Manalo, Hemedez and Ledesma is set for Dec. 6 at the MMDJ courtroom.
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