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Lacson, 37 others given until June 5 to answer Kuratong raps

Opposition senatorial candidate and former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Panfilo Lacson and 37 police officers were given until June 5 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to answer allegations that they liquidated 11 members of the Kuratong Baleleng robbery gang six years ago.


State Prosecutor Peter Ong, head of a three-man DOJ panel, said Lacson and his co-respondents would have more than enough time to file their rebuttals prior to the submission of the case for resolution.


Those charged include Chief Superintendents Jewel Canson and Romeo Acop, Senior Superintendents Francisco Zubia, Cesar Mancao III and Michael Ray Aquino, and brothers Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Caisip and SPO4 Lito Caisip.


"After the deadline, as agreed upon by respondents’ lawyers and of complainants, the case will be submitted for resolution," Ong told reporters, adding the case will be decided on the testimonies of three prosecution witnesses.


He said it was unfortunate that the respondents – except for Mancao and the Caisip brothers – failed to appear in four preliminary investigation hearings.


"All the respondents were informed of the affidavits of the three witnesses. They were given copies of these from the very beginning," Ong said.


Hearings were conducted on April 27, May 4, May 16 and yesterday.


Ong and panel members State Prosecutors Ruben Zacarias and Conrado Jamolin will no longer be sending subpoenas to the respondents because the case has been pending for a long time.


The new witnesses in the case include Senior Inspectors Ysmael Yu and Abelardo Ramos, who admitted they were part of the raiding team that arrested and executed the gang members.


Lawyers of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), headed by Arno Sanidad, presented the two witnesses in April in an effort to revive the case that was junked in 1999.


Sanidad said Ramos narrated in a sworn affidavit that he shot the suspected bank robbers on "direct orders" from Zubia, a former chief of the Traffic Management Command.


Yu, on the other hand, claimed he was among those who raided the house of gang leader Wilson Soronda in Parañaque.


On May 18, 1995, police raided the safehouse and seized four duffel bags of money and pieces of jewelry before proceeding to Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City with the gangmen aboard a van. Witnesses said they saw policemen shoot down Soronda and his five men while they were handcuffed inside the van along Commonwealth Avenue.


Sanidad said he and other FLAG lawyers expect the Arroyo administration to show its political will in giving justice to the families of the slain men.


The case against Lacson and his men was junked in March 1999 by Quezon City Judge Wenceslao Agnir, who was promoted as Court of Appeals justice the following week.

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