Esperat Case UpdateFamily asks court to order arrest of ‘mastermind’
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility is posting this story ahead of its print version in time for tomorrow, April 20 (8:30 AM), when the Makati RTC Branch 138 is set to hear motion for issuance of alias warrant against the alleged masterminds in the killing of Marlene Esperat.
By Melanie Y. Pinlac
PJR Reports March-April 2012
THE FAMILY of slain journalist Marlene Esperat asked the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) last 13 April 2012 to issue an alias warrant of arrest against the alleged masterminds in the killing. A court can re-issue an “alias warrant” if the original is returned unserved after ten days.
Stories and statements on the Esperat Case:
Marlene Esperat was killed on 24 March 2005 in her home in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. The killing has been linked to a major scandal in the Department of Agriculture, where there are allegations that a P728-million fertilizer fund was used to finance the 2004 reelection campaign of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Esperat had linked Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, who are the finance officer and the accountant, respectively, in the Region XII office of the DA, to the local part of the scam in one of her exposes. A former government employee, Esperat was writing a column for the Midland Review and filing cases against officials she claimed were guilty of graft and corruption when she was killed. She also hosted a blocktime program at a local radio station.
Montañer and Sabay are accused of planning the killing and hiring the gunman Gerry Cabayag and his companions Estanislao Bismanos and Randy Grecia through suspect-turned-state-witness Rowie Barua. Cabayag, Bismanos and Grecia have been convicted in October 2006. Both alleged masterminds have eluded arrest.
The Esperat family, through their counsel Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, filed the motion for an alias warrant after the Supreme Court’s (SC) Third Division upheld in a 5 March 2012 the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) Mindanao station dismissing their petition to quash the murder case against them.
In a resolution dated 19 January 2012, the Former 21st Division of the CA Mindanao Station (in Cagayan de Oro City) said there was “no strong and cogent reason” to warrant the reversal of its 19 August 2011 denial of Montañer and Sabay’s petition for certiorari and prohibition.
The CA Mindanao station’s 19 August 2011 decision declared Montañer and Sabay guilty of “forum shopping,” since the issues they raised in their petition had already been resolved by a division of the Manila CA. Even if it did not constitute forum shopping, the Court said that the petition would still have been dismissed as the court then handling the case, the Tacurong Regional Trial Court, did not commit any grave abuse of discretion or error in denying the alleged masterminds’ Motion to Quash.
“The reasons and arguments set forth by them have already been thoroughly considered and ruled upon by This Court in the assailed (August 2011) Decision,” read the 19 January 2012 resolution. It reiterated its earlier decision about forum shopping, saying “the petitioners were trying to revive an issue which was already ruled upon with finality by this Court in CA G.R.SP No. 101348. Thus, this Court had to make the ruling on forum shopping.”
The court also denied the alleged masterminds’ motion for reconsideration of the 21 September 2011 Resolution of an “Extremely Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Clarification” filed by the alleged masterminds themselves. In the 21 September 2011 resolution, the CA Mindanao explained that the writ of preliminary injunction it issued in December 2009 has been lifted with the denial of the petition for certiorari and prohibition in August 2011.
If arrested, Montañer and Sabay would be among the few accused masterminds to be tried for the killing of journalists in the Philippines. Their conviction would also be a first. No mastermind in the killing of 124 journalists since 1986 have so far been convicted, although the alleged masterminds in the killing of 58 men and women including 32 journalists in the infamous Ampatuan Massacre of November 23, 2009 are in custody and are undergoing trial.