High Court grants request for transfer of venue of alleged gunman’s trial in broadcaster’s murder

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines ordered the transfer of the trial of the alleged gunman in the 2010 killing of a Davao Oriental radio broadcaster from Mati City, Davao Oriental to Davao City.

In a resolution dated 8 June 2011, the SC’s Second Division “partially grant(ed)” the request of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ)  through its secretariat director and Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) Executive Director Melinda Quintos de Jesus to transfer the trial of the suspect in the killing of Mati City, Davao Oriental broadcaster Desiderio Camangyan to another court.  Davao Oriental is a province approximately 1,021 kilometers south of Manila.

In its letter-request dated 8 October 2010, FFFJ asked the Supreme Court to transfer the case to Cebu City due to the reluctance and fear of the witnesses, including the widow and son of Camangyan, to testify in a court in a place where the alleged gunman might have political connections. Alleged gunman Police Officer  Dennis Lumikid worked for the mayor for Mati City who was allegedly a target of Camangyan’s criticism.

“Although a state prosecutor with unquestionable integrity has been assigned to prosecute this case, witnesses would remain reluctant to disclose what they know since the case will be tried in the very heart of the territory of accused’s political patron,” FFFJ said in its letter-request.

The Supreme Court, however considering the burden to the accused gunman, said “it is best to transfer the venue to Davao City.”  It noted that Lumikid through his counsel Leo Caubang said he “does not have the means to secure the attendance of his witnesses in Cebu City.”

The court then ordered (1) “the Branch Clerk of Court, RTC, Br. 5, Mati, Davao Oriental, to forward the records of Crim. Case No. 5630-10 to the Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, Davao City”; (2) “the Executive Judge of the RTC, Davao City to raffle the case among the branches of the aforesaid court”; and (3) “the judge to whom the case will be raffled to hear, try and decide the case with dispatch.” Criminal Case No. 5630-10 refers to People v. PO1 Dennis Lumikid and John Does.

Camangyan, a blocktimer at Sunrise FM-Mati City, was killed while hosting a singing competition in Old Macopa village, Manay town last June 2010. Prior to his killing, Camanyan and his co-anchors received threats for their commentaries on alleged illegal logging activities in Davao Oriental.  “Blocktiming” is a practice in which individuals or groups purchase TV or radio airtime and then solicit sponsors for the show.

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