Court downgrades charge from murder to homicide in radio broadcaster’s killing
CMFR/Philippines – A Court in Cebu City on 16 January 2014 convicted a man of homicide in the case of a radio broadcaster killed 13 years ago in the province of Aklan. The man drove the motorcycle the gunman used to escape. “Treachery and evident premeditation,” qualifications for the original murder charge, had not been proven, the court said.
Branch 16 of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court ordered the eight to fourteen-year imprisonment of Amador Raz, in connection with the killing of radio broadcaster Rolando Ureta. Raz was also ordered to pay Ureta’s family over P110,000 (about USD2,400) in damages.
Raz drove the motorcycle gunman Jessie Ticar rode to flee the crime scene.
Ureta was killed on the evening of 3 January 2001 in Kalibo town, Aklan, some 400 kilometers south of Manila.
The venue of the trial was transferred to Cebu City in 2008 after the Supreme Court granted the petition of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc. (FFFJ) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
Cebu City is some 1000 kilometers south of Manila.
Ticar surrendered on 18 December 2007 but died in a hospital in Aklan on 2 May 2008 while being treated for an illness. The court cleared him of criminal liability due to his death.
Raz and Ticar were originally charged with murder but the court said the prosecution failed to prove “treachery and premeditation,” or that the killing was planned.
The lone witness to the killing, Gerson Sonio, testified that he saw Raz and Ticar a few days before the killing with Engineer Dominador Alindatu and Joecel Maribojo, government officials whom Ureta criticized in his radio program. But Sonio said he was not privy to what the four men were discussing.
“For evident premeditation to be appreciated, the date and if possible, the time when the offender determined to commit the crime is essential,” the Court’s decision said. “The presence of the accused (Raz and Ticar) at the farm of Engr. Alindatu is too circumstantial and not proof enough of a plot to kill the victim.”
Sonio, however, also saw Ticar shooting Ureta three times with Raz driving the motorcycle Ticar rode in after the shooting.
He surfaced three years after the killing. The complaint against Raz and Ticar was filed in September 2004.
The complaint was dismissed three months later after Sonio’s father and uncle testified that Sonio was not in Kalibo at the time of the killing. It was later alleged that Sonio’s family was being threatened to ruin Sonio’s credibility as a witness.
Ureta’s widow, Emely Ureta, filed a motion for reconsideration on 4 January 2005 but the motion was denied the following month.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the case to be reopened on 16 January 2007 after the local police and Emely appealed for the reversal of the complaint’s dismissal on 27 April 2005.
In a report from the Cebu Daily News on 5 February 2014, Raz decried the decision, telling reporters, “I have no idea about the crime. I could not afford to do what they are accusing me of.”
Raz testified that at the time of the shooting, he was at home watching television with his family and having drinks with his neighbors.
The Court decision, however, quoted a Supreme Court ruling that “the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by a credible witness.”
CMFR has created a video report on the Sept. 16, 2008 hearing of the murder case filed against the alleged killers of radio broadcaster Rolando Ureta.