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After 18 years, kidnap victims get justice

The defendants cover their faces as they arrive at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court yesterday for the promulgation of the kidnapping case. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines - Justice was finally served yesterday to a Chinese-Filipino couple kidnapped with their maid and held for ransom by a notorious group in Quezon City more than 18 years ago.

Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98 issued a guilty verdict against seven members of the Waray-Waray gang charged for the 1997 kidnapping of spouses Virgilio and Christine Chua and their maid Analyn Simbajon.

The case, which languished for almost two decades at the local court, was dubbed by the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) as the longest trial in the history of kidnap-for-ransom cases in the country.

Found guilty beyond reasonable doubt on the charge of kidnapping with serious illegal detention were suspects Roger Ete, Crisanto Dollete, Agustin Quinala, Mario Esiderio, Cipriano Cornista and Diosdado Tandagan.

They were sentenced to suffer the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, or up to 40 years in prison.

The court also found another accused, Esperanza Falcon, guilty as an accomplice to the crime. She was sentenced to 12 years.

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Following the promulgation of judgment, the judge ordered the release of Falcon as she has already served more than the sentence.

The suspects were also ordered to jointly pay the victims a total of P700,000 for damages. Falcon will shoulder P44,000, while the others will pay the rest.

The court did not rule on the case of two other suspects, Teofilo Arlanzon and Benhur Anastacio, who died while in detention.

Eleven other suspects remain at large. They were identified as Conrado Camiller, Michael Camiller, Alton Camiller, Adong Camiller, Olab Inalis, Elvira Diola, and those only identified as Pablo, Val, Junjun, King and Mozo.

The Chua couple and their maid were kidnapped in Novaliches, Quezon City on April 8, 1997.

In their testimony, the couple said they were on their way to their factory when four men in a taxi blocked their vehicle and abducted them. Their relatives paid P400,000 to the kidnappers in exchange for their release.

Follow-up investigation resulted in the arrest of 10 suspects, including Carlo Samson, who was later allowed to become a state witness.

Samson testified on the planning and execution of the kidnapping and pointed at his former cohorts as the perpetrators of the crime.

In their defense, the suspects denied participation in the kidnapping and claimed that they were framed for the crime.

But Judge Tamang said the suspects can only present denials and excuses.

“Categorical, consistent and positive identification, without any ill motive on the part of the eyewitness, prevails over unconvincing alibi and unsubstantiated denials. These latter testimonies are self-serving statements, undeserving of weight in law,” she said in a 29-page ruling.

She noted the testimony of the suspect-turned-state witness, whom she said was very revealing for it corroborated the testimonies of the victims.

“His declarations even supplies all the minor details in the commission of the crime from the pre-planning, actual planning and post planning stage,” the ruling read.

“We find the prosecution’s evidence more credible than that of the defense. The required quantum of evidence, which is proof beyond reasonable doubt, has been sufficiently established for which a judgment of conviction must perforce be rendered,” it added.

In downgrading the charge against Falcon, the judge said her criminal liability is limited to being accomplice as her only supposed connection to the case was that she was the owner of the house where the planning was conducted.

“It must be emphasized that there is no evidence providing her participation in the decision to commit the kidnapping,” the judge said.

Mrs. Chua attended the hearing but refused to speak to the media following the promulgation of judgment.

MRPO chairman Ka Kuen Chua stressed that cases should never last for 18 years in court.

“Although we welcome the conviction meted against these unscrupulous individuals, justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.

“We call on the authorities to act with relative haste in turning the wheels of justice against this company of evil that undermine the peace and order in our society,” he added.

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