For murder of ‘salvaging’ survivor : Ex-Baliuag cop chief acquitted in retrial

- by Benjie Villa -
TARLAC CITY — A police lieutenant-colonel, who earlier was sentenced to death for the murder of a "salvaging" (summary execution) survivor, was acquitted by a judge here for failure of prosecutors to prove his guilt "beyond reasonable doubt" in the retrial of the case.

Superintendent Alfredo Siwa, former police chief of Baliuag, Bulacan, walked out of his cell at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City last Sunday, and visited the tomb of his mother who passed away last month.

Regional Trial Court Judge Bitty Viliran, in a 17-page decision on the retrial of Siwa’s case, said the police officer "cannot be made to suffer the serious penalty of the crime of murder on account of the dubious circumstantial evidence proffered by the prosecution."

On July 21, 1999, Judge Victor Llamas convicted Siwa of murder for the killing of "salvaging" survivor Vicente Magpayo, and sentenced him to die by lethal injection.

Magpayo was the lone survivor in the summary execution of several men allegedly involved in illegal gambling and highway robbery, whose bodies were dumped in Jaen and other towns in Nueva Ecija.

However, Magpayo, while confined at Room 231 of the Tarlac Provincial Hospital, was shot dead by eight still unidentified gunmen with caliber .45s at about 4 a.m. of March 27, 1999. Policemen nabbed Siwa while coming out of the hospital shortly after the killing.

Before he was killed, Magpayo told reporters here that elements of the Baliuag police were responsible for the "salvaging" of his companions.

During his earlier trial, Siwa’s counsel relied on the "weakness of the evidence" presented in court, which, however, led to his conviction.

Employing a new lawyer after he was brought to the National Penitentiary, Siwa was able to secure a retrial of his case on grounds that "there was no eyewitness to the actual killing of Magpayo (and) all that was presented by the prosecution (was) circumstantial evidence that the killing was deliberately perpetuated by (Siwa) and the eight armed men."

Siwa, through his new counsel, argued that his presence in the hospital at the time of Magpayo’s killing "does not establish conspiracy."

Siwa testified in the retrial that he decided to come to this city to personally interrogate Magpayo on his allegations that Baliuag policemen were involved in the killings of his companions.

He claimed that he even brought with him file photos of Baliuag policemen to allow Magpayo to identify the perpetrators.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Siwa, however, said he was prevented by PO2 Carlito Siobal and SPO2 Francisco Carriaga, who were then securing Magpayo, from entering the victim’s room.

He said he then decided to secure permission from higher police officials here to be able to visit Magpayo. Siobal and Carriaga testified in court that Siwa was unarmed when they frisked him.

But shortly after Siwa got back his identification card from the two policemen, eight armed men suddenly appeared and ordered them to lie face down on the floor. Some of the gunmen then forcibly entered Magpayo’s room, where four gunshots were later heard.

"When I raised my head, I saw no one, including the two policemen," Siwa testified.

He said he then ran toward the direction of the gunmen. But when he reached the hospital’s main door, responding policemen collared him.

Inspector Daisy Babor of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory at Camp Olivas in Pampanga, testified that she found no traces of gunpowder nitrates on Siwa when he was subjected to paraffin test shortly after Magpayo’s killing.

"From the evidence presented, the identities of the eight armed men who shot Magpayo have not been established," said Judge Viliran. "Nothing was offered to show that they belong to any police or military unit or to any known criminal group."

"At the time the eight men entered the hospital premises and later the room where (Magpayo) was confined, the accused (Siwa) was with the two policemen guards," added the judge. "(Siwa) was not in (the) company of the eight armed men."

Viliran added: "It is crystal clear that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses confirmed that Siwa arrived alone (at) the hospital."

The judge further noted that unlike Siwa who had to ask where Magpayo was confined, the eight armed men knew exactly the victim’s room number.

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