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Nueva Ecija court junks case vs ex-Makabayan solons

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Nueva Ecija court junks case vs ex-Makabayan solons
In a decision made public Monday, the Palayan City Regional Trial Court also junked the arrest warrant issued against National Anti-Poverty Commissioner Liza Maza, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and former Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A Nueva Ecija court has dismissed the case filed against former Makabayan lawmakers for insufficient evidence.

In a decision made public Monday, the Palayan City Regional Trial Court also junked the arrest warrant issued against National Anti-Poverty Commissioner Liza Maza, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and former Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño.

Acting Presiding Judge Trese Wenceslao cited insufficient evidence.

Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna) welcomed the dismissal of the case, which the former Makabayan solons and their supporters had described as trumped up..

“We thank Judge Wenceslao for his impartiality and for not succumbing to pressures to act against the Makabayan 4 and for dismissing these clearly preposterous trumped-up charges,” Zarate said.

Last month, Judge Evelyn Turla issued an arrest warrant for the four former party-list lawmakers over the abduction and killing of three farmers who were reportedly supporters of rival party-list Akabayan more than a decade ago.

In 2008, Turla ordered the case remanded to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, saying "the proper procedure in the conduct of the preliminary investigation was not followed" and that prosecutors should conduct a proper preliminary investigation.

"From the gathering of evidence until the termination of the preliminary investigation, it appears that the state prosecutors were overly-eager to file the case and to secure a warrant of arrest of [petitioners] without bail and their consequent detention," she also said.

The respondents questioned the move before the Supreme Court, saying the cases against them should be dismissed if the court did not find probable cause. 

In February 2017, the Supreme Court partially granted the respondents' petition, saying sending the cases back to the prosecutor was improper and, in a turnaround, Turla issued warrants for the former lawmakers' arrest.

Turla has since inhibited from the case and has turned the case over to Wenceslao.       

Zarate also slammed lawyer Ferdinand Topacio for endangering the lives of Maza, Ocampo, Mariano and Casiño.

“Those behind these harassment charges should be held accountable. Attorney Topacio and his minions should also be made to answer for unnecessarily putting the security and lives of the Makabayan 4 in jeopardy,” he said.

Topacio’s group, Citizens’ Crime Watch, offered P250,000 for any lead on the whereabouts of the each of the four.

LIZA MAZA

RAFAEL MARIANO

SATUR OCAMPO

TEDDY CASIñO

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