On 17 June 2013, the Former Seventeenth Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the petition for the issuance of a Writ of Amparo (Petition) filed by Jaime Aquino (Jaime) and Ester Aquino in behalf of their son, the minor Jestin Imus Aquino (Jestin), against respondents National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Akap-Bata Caritas.
It may be recalled that Jestin is a witness in the purported assassination of Mayor Ruperto Martinez of Infanta, Pangasinan on 15 December 2012. On 26 November 2012, Jestin ran away from his family's home due to alleged maltreatment inflicted by his own father Jaime, and was brought to Akap-Bata. Thereafter, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) took custody of the minor, and filed a Petition for Involuntary Commitment of Jestin as an abandoned, neglected, and dependent child.
The NBI obtained two sworn statements from Jestin, and recommended to the DOJ the filing of criminal complaints against Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr., Rep. Jesus F. Celeste, and Jaime as the main perpetrators in the commission of the crime.
Spouses Aquino then filed the Petition before the Supreme Court (SC), in which they posited that the testimony of Jestin as a witness to the slaying of Mayor Martinez threatens his life, liberty, and security, especially because their son's sworn statements before the NBI are contrived and lacking any factual basis. In a Resolution dated 19 February 2013, the SC issued a Writ of Amparo, and referred the Petition to the CA for hearing and disposition.
After a careful examination of the records, the Court of Appeals found that "the totality of the evidence adduced by petitioners fall much short of proving the allegations in their complaint" and "petitioners did not mention a single instance in which Jestin's life, liberty and security are being endangered or threatened by any of the respondents". Evidently, the perils which Spouses Aquino dread, as a result of Jestin becoming a witness to the crime" seem to come from parties who were not even impleaded in the Petition and are not even connected to respondents. In their Petition, the Spouses Aquino alleged that "the families of Celeste and Espino were extremely angry at him"; "he feared that outburst of emotions from the supporters of Espino and Celeste may erupt to kill his son, Jestin I. Aquino, or Jaime Aquino himself or any member of his family"; "these fears are impending that retaliation might not be controlled by Governor Espino and Congressman Celeste"; "threats from unseen angst from politicians' camps"; and that "belief among the hot-headed supporters of the incumbent governor of Pangasinan and the incumbent congressman of its first district".
The CA then ruled that "[w]ith more reason, then, that the Court is inclined to believe that Jestin's security and safety will be better served if he remains at the custody of the DSWD". Citing the principle that the best interests of the child is the primordial consideration in the determination of his custody, the CA stated that "Jestin ran away from home because he feared for his life. He was even scared of his own father, against whom he filed a case for child abuse. The suspects in the death of Mayor Martinez are high-ranking public officials in the province of Pangasinan where members of Jestin's family live. Thus, if Jestin were to be returned to his parents, there is even a greater chance that he will be exposed to actual and imminent danger".
The CA also denied Spouses Aquino's prayer to issue an order enjoining respondents from proceeding with the preliminary investigation relative to the death of Mayor Martinez. It held that the issue is within the latitude of remedies that are separate and different from the Writ of Amparo.
Jaime's judicial affidavit did not also escape the attention of the CA. As admitted by the Spouses Aquino's counsel, he made the affidavit after supposedly speaking to Jaime in an internet room. Having been made in blatant violation of AM 12-8-8-SC, the evidentiary weight of the affidavit as evidence is doubtful.
Pursuant to said findings, the Petition was dismissed for lack of merit.