The Investigating Panel of Prosecutors created under D.O. No. 066, dated 06 February 2015, recommended the filing of Informations for three (3) counts of Murder and four (4) counts of Frustrated Murder against Respondents Celso C. Regencia (REGENCIA), then incumbent Mayor of Iligan City; Alfeo Amoco (ARNOCO); Amador B. Baller, a.k.a. "Dongki" (BALLER); Rogelio Pitos, Sr., a.k.a. "Kim" (PITOS, SR.); Rogelio Pitos, Jr. (PITOS, JR.); Romeo Suganub, a.k.a. "Loloy" (SUGANUB); Peejay Capangpangan (CAPAMPANGAN); Julito Oros Ansad, a.k.a. "Bino" (ANSAD); Dodo Silvano (SILVANO); and several John Does and Peter Does in connection with the ambush perpetrated against Complainant Congressman Vicente Belmonte (BELMONTE) and his group. As for Respondent Dominador S. Tumala (TUMALA), the Panel recommended the dismissal of the complaint in accordance with Sections 3, 10, and 12 of Republic Act No. 6981, otherwise known as Witness Protection Security and Benefit Act.
After careful perusal of the records, the Panel found that the evidence submitted were sufficient to establish probable cause for the crimes charged.
Complainant BELMONTE underscored that the only person who could perpetrate the crime was no other than his bitter political rival, Respondent REGENCIA. The saidsuspicion was bolstered by the consequent confession of Respondent TUMALA, who pointed to Respondent TUMALA as the mastermind in concert with the other Respondents.
Anent the validity of Respondent TUMALA's extra-judicial confessions, the Panel ruled that "[w]hile it may be true that there is no direct evidence pointing to [the Respondents] as direct participants, there are circumstantial evidence that would point to their complicity in its commission." The Panel observed that the averments of the complainants that a group of armed men blocked and waylaid the convoy of Complainant BELMONTE were corroborated by the testimony of Respondent TUMALA - one of the gunmen in the incident. Respondent TUMALA executed an extrajudicial confession dated 19 January 2015 reinforcing the narrations of Complainants BELMONTE, Noel Jaime Jo (JO), SPO1 Rouel Viejo (VIEJO), and Rio B. Don, about the ambush incident, and confirmed the participation of his companions.
The witnesses for the complainants corroborated, in all material points, Respondent TUMALA's subsequent confession on the details of the ambush. First, the testimony of witness Raul Warak-Warak who claimed to have seen, on 09 December 2014, Respondent BALLER in his farmhouse with some visitors who arrived on board a white L-300 van as well as Respondent REGENCIA in the company of CAPAMPANGAN, a known fugitive in their place, who also arrived on board a white pick-up and went to the group of people who were what appeared to be a cockfighting area inside the farmhouse. Second, the distribution and utilization of four (4) M-16 and a Carbine among Respondents TUMALA, RUEL, SILVANO, ANSAD, and JIMMY was corroborated by witnesses Cleofo B. Gaid, Jr. (GAID) and Mark Lu Apag (APAG) who both narrated that they saw a van coming from the direction of the bursts of gunfire, followed by three (3) persons armed with long firearms. Third, Respondent TUMALA recalled that Respondent ANSAD was hit after the victims were able to return fire at the ambushers. This narration was further corroborated by Complainant VIEJO who averred that he was able to hit one of the perpetrators in the L-300 van which blocked their way. Fourth, Respondent TUMALA was positively identified as one of the perpetrators by Complainant JO who claimed that the former pointed a gun at him while he lay bleeding on the ground and picked up the rifle of victim PO3 Mark A. Andres (ANDRES). Witnesses APAG and GAID also identified Respondent TUMALA as one of the persons who passed by them carrying high powered firearms. Fifth, the utility of a green Toyota Revo with plate No.KCE-447 as the get-away vehicle. Witness Bobwalter Pedisani categorically claimed that he saw the said car parked in the waiting shed of Purok 6, Tubajon, Laguindingan. The driver even asked for his help to start the car's engine after which the driver drove the same uphill. Minutes later, he saw the same car came downhill at a high speed. Further verification revealed that the car was sold to Respondent PITOS, JR. which strengthened the allegation that he and his father, Respondent PITOS, SR. had a hand in the planning and execution of the ambush.
The Panel concluded that these circumstances and positive assertions from the witnesses effectively gave credit to Respondent TUMALA's narration of the incident that transpired prior to, during, and after the incident.
With respect to the defense of alibi interposed by Respondents REGENCIA, ARNOCO, and BALLER, the Panel ruled that the physical impossibility is not conclusive. The venue of the Conferment and Awarding Ceremony of the Iligan Police Force and the meeting was within Iligan City only. Hence, the proximity of the locations did not render it impossible for Respondents REGENCIA and ARNOCO to be in two venues successively. As to Respondent BALLER, the evidence presented did not conclusively prove that he was in Cebu during the 09 December 2014 meeting. His itinerary merely indicated that he was scheduled to fly to Cebu on Dec. 08 and a return flight to Iligan City on Dec. 10. Considering the accessibility of mobility and transfer to and from Cebu City, it did not render it physically impossible for him to be at the venue of the meeting, more so that it was held in his own farmhouse. Moreover, his participation in the concurring facts was not limited to the December 09 meeting. Respondent TUMALA categorically identified him to have attended another meeting with Respondents PITOS, SR. and SUGANUB.
As regards the credibility as well as the probative value of the statements given by the witnesses, the Panel stated that it is not within the province of the Department of Justice to determine. These are better ventilated during trial proper compared to the preliminary investigation level.
Further, the Panel ruled that the facts and circumstances presented showed that the elements of murder were present: three persons were dead because of the ambush incident - Victims ANDRES, Eustaquio Silawan, and France Ian Dumaguing; the killing of the victims were qualified by treachery because the attack was sudden and the victims were not given any chance to defend themselves; and evident premeditation was also present as shown by Respondent TUMALA's assertion that as early as August, Rèsoñdents already conspired to kill Complainant BELMONTE.
The crime of frustrated murder was also committed by the resultant injuries suffered by Complainants BELMONTE, JO, VIEJO, and DON.
Finally, the Panel ruled that the facts and circumstances presented showed a concurrence of acts of the Respondents towards that unified purpose of consummating the overt act of ambushing the complainants.
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