Cops in 2005 Ortigas shootout off the hook.
A PASIG CITY court has dismissed the criminal charges filed against four members of the former Philippine National Police Traffic Management Group accused of killing three young men in a controversial shootout in Ortigas Center on November 7, 2005, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
Judge Acerey C. Pacheco of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 265 in a July 23 decision granted the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the policemen led by now Lieutenant Colonel Hansel M. Marantan and ordered the dismissal of the instant criminal cases filed against them.
The Pasig City judge also dismissed for lack of legal and factual basis the claims for civil indemnity, lost of earning capacity and damages filed by the families of Francis Xavier Manzano, Anton Cu-Unjieng and Brian Anthony Dulay.
“Well-entrenched in jurisprudence is the rule that the conviction of the accused must rest, not on the weakness of the defense, but on the strength of the prosecution. The burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, not on the accused to prove his innocence,” Judge Pacheco said in his decision, a copy of which was acquired by the Journal Group.
Apart from then Senior Inspector Marantan, the other accused in the case which was dubbed then as the ‘Ortigas Rubout’ were then Senior Inspector, now Lt. Col. Samson B. Belmonte, Police Officers 3 Rizalito SM Ramos Jr. and Llloyd Soria and Police Officer 2 Dexter M. Bernadas. All were members of the Special Operations Group/Task Force Limbas of the PNP Traffic Management Group, now known as the PNP Highway Patrol Group.
The policemen were accused of killing the three men inside a maroon Nissan Exalta at the Ortigas Business District in Pasig City when they refused to stop at a checkpoint and reportedly opened fire at the lawmen. The three were tagged as suspected members of the Valle Verde car theft gang who had been under surveillance for a week prior to the shootout.
The incident was caught on video by UNTV and shown on national television prompting relatives of the victims to claim that what happened was a rubout. The families of the victims claimed that the complete UNTV video showed the policemen waiting for the three men on Ortigas Avenue before firing at their vehicle and shooting at them as they lay motionless.
During arraignment, all policemen pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges imputed on them leading to a nearly 15-year trial. The lawyers of the accused claimed ‘there was lack of positive identification of all accused by any of the prosecution’s witnesses.’
The court specifically noted the “inadmissibility and incompetency of the sworn statements, forensic case review and CHR resolutions’ during the case hearings.
The court also questioned the “competency of Dr. Raquel del Rosario-Fortun to render an expert opinion as contained in her Forensic Case Review.’
It said that as the 6th witness of the prosecution, Dra. Fortun was presented as an expert witness in her capacity as a Forensic Pathologist. The defense acceded to the qualification of Fortun as a Pathologist but objected to her presentation as a Forensic Pathologist.
The court noted that Fortun, during direct examination testified that she specialized in Anatomic Pathology at the University of the Philippines and Philippine General Hospital and passed the Diplomate Board Examination in Anatomic Pathology administered by the Philippine Board of Pathology in January 1993.
She also took up post-residency training in Forensic Pathology in Washington, USA. However, the court said that during cross-examination, Fortun admitted that she was not able to complete the requirement for the examination as a Forensic Pathologist in the U.S. and thus, did not take the Forensic Pathology board exam in the same country.
Fortun likewise admitted that there is a ‘big difference’ between Pathology in general and Forensic Pathology in particular and that there is no recognized Philippine government body which gives examinations to be able to become a Certified Forensic Pathologist in the country.
As a result, the Court said it was hard pressed to afford Dr. Fortun the recognition of a Certified Forensic Pathologist and ruled that her “opinion, conclusion and evaluation rendered’ during the examination of the slain men’s bodies and the evidence recovered inside their car “are obviously beyond her competence and expertise as a pathologist’ unlike that of a Certified Forensic Pathologist, forensic chemist, crime scene investigator and forensic ballistician.
The court ruled that “not being a certified Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Fortun’s findings cannot be received in evidence.’
It also dismissed for ‘lack of probative value’ the so-called raw video footage of the alleged shooting incident saying that the prosecution failed to really establish the credibility and competence of the recorder of the video during trial.
The court questioned the accuracy of the sound recording which it said is ‘not inadmissible (as evidence) because the prosecution failed to establish requisites needed before it is given probative value.
It turned out that during trial, the prosecution led by Attorneys Theodore O. Te and Lorenzo R. Tañada presented a UNTV employee who admitted that he was not the one who took the video and transferred it from the actual camera to the CD since he was not still with the television company when the shooting incident took place.