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3 UP Sigma Rhoans charged

City prosecutors filed a case of homicide with the Quezon City regional trial court against three Sigma Rho (SR) fraternity men linked to the killing of Alpha Phi Beta (APB) fraternity member Den Daniel Reyes during a brawl in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus on the night of Feb. 10.


But the decision of the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office to file a homicide charge, instead of a murder charge, against the suspects – senior law student Fulgencio "Bibit" Factoran III, son of former environment secretary Fulgencio Factoran Jr, and his fraternity brothers Gil Taway IV and Marcelino Rongo – did not sit well with the Reyes family’s lawyers.


"This is not what we expected," said Arnold Guerro, assistant general counsel of the APB alumni association. "It was clear to us that what the suspects did to our fraternity brother was murder." Guerrero heads a 12-member panel of lawyers representing the victim’s parents, Danilo and Cecilia Reyes of Barangay Caniogan, Malolos, Bulucan. "I will have to confer with our alumni and the victim’s parents if they want the Department of Justice to review this case," Guerrero said.


Assistant Prosecutor Mey-nardo Bautista Jr. handed down the resolution Friday.


Two APB men, Keven Camagay and Vincent Jimenez, identified the three suspects as among the five men who attacked Reyes at about 8 p.m. last Feb. 10 in front of the UP Law Center. The eyewitnesses said they were in a car on their way to the UP Law Center when they noticed a commotion on the Center’s driveway.


Turning on the car’s bright lights, they recognized Factoran, Taway and Rongo taking turns in attacking another person with long knives. They didn’t know who the victim was until they saw him stand up and struggle to walk towards the Law Center’s doorsteps after the attack, according to their sworn statements.


They said Reyes made a dying declaration accusing Factoran and Taway of attacking him. The third year engineering student was pronounced dead at the East Avenue Medical Center. He would have turned 21 on March 2.


But the Sigma Rhoans disputed the APB’s version of the incident. They presented their own witnesses who said they were the ones who were attacked by several armed and hooded men.


The incident shocked the UP community, which only last year, mourned the death of 19-year-old journalism student Nino Calinao, who was allegedly caught in the crossfire between the warring Sigma Rho and Scintilla Juris fraternities.


The brawl happened while a fund-raising concert was taking place on another side of the campus in memory of Calinao, a journalism senior who was gunned down by four men behind the old Arts and Sciences building on Feb. 19 last year. He was said to have been mistaken by hired assassins for a member of the Scintilla Juris fraternity. Reyes was the 10th UP student to die of fraternity-related violence since the 1960s.


Both the Sigma Rho and the Alpha Phi Beta fraternities are based in the College of Law and have been traditional rivals.


The Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office raised doubts about the credibility of the APB’s witnesses, saying they did not explain why it took them a long time to present their account of the incident and their fraternity brother’s dying declaration, despite the intense media coverage.


The prosecutors noted the Sigma Rho’s contention that even the invitation of the Central Police District (CPD) to the victim’s family went unanswered for longer than three weeks.


The most serious question that has been raised was the fact that when witness Vincent Jimenez was asked by the guard on duty at the East Avenue Medical Center as to the identity of the assailants," noted the city prosecutors in their resolution, "he replied that such assailants were unidentified."


They concluded that the complainants failed to establish qualifying circumstances – treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, evident premeditation, with the aid of armed men, and by employing means to weaken the defense – that would warrant a murder charge, a crime punishable by death.


"However, this Office finds probable cause that the felony of homicide, a crime cognizable by the Regional Trial Court, has been committed, and that the respondents should be held for trial to determine their guilt or innocence," they said in their five-page resolution.


They also recommended a bail of P40,000 each for the temporary liberty of the accused. Court sources said the three suspects posted bail shortly after the homicide case was elevated to the regional trial court.

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