Freeman Region

At the prosecutor’s level: Charges vs 3 Sestoso murder suspects dismissed

Juancho R. Gallarde - The Freeman

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — The City Prosecutor’s Office, citing insufficiency of evidence, recently dismissed the murder charges against the three suspects in the killing of radio broadcaster Edmund Sestoso on April 30.

The resolution, dated August 20, 2018, was handed down by Assistant Prosecutors Alvin Aseniero and May Flor Duka, and Associate City Prosecutor Julito Lumusad, and approved by City Prosecutor Joseph Arnel Zerna.

The three suspects were Richard Bustamante alias Mokong, who was reportedly killed in La Libertad town; Jerryl Delantes alias Sherwin, and Jose Rene Bustamante, the alleged mastermind. Sherwin and Mokong were tagged by the police as members of the New People’s Army, which the authorities claimed as behind the Sestoso killing.

While Sherwin and Rene remained at-large, the prosecutors found inconsistencies on the testimonies of witnesses Rene Panday Estorco, pedicab driver Edgar Baldomar, and Romie Torres, a worker of a battery shop along Aldecoa Drive at Barangay Daro where Sestoso was gunned down on April 30.

Estorco said he knew Sestoso as his “kumpare,” and he claimed to know the gunman and the driver having been introduced to him by his friends at Barangay Isugan in Bacong town on September 17, last year during the birthday of a friend.

Estorco said the gunman and the driver were introduced to him by their nicknames as Ka Mokong, the alleged gunman, and the driver as Ka Sherwin, and that they were cousins from Guihulngan City and members of the NPA.

Sometime last January, Estorco said Mokong and Sherwin told him about their uncle, Rene, who they said was an NPA leader who was framed up by Sestoso and eventually arrested by the Tanjay City Police for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. They claimed they wanted to take revenge against Sestoso, according to Estorco.

In his counter-affidavit, Rene, who was also known as Ka Pediong, Ka Jade Hervias, Ka Jury Merecido in the charge sheet, denied all the allegations, contending that Estorco lied and was used by somebody to advance another trump-up charges against him.

Rene also said he has been used as a decoy by the real culprits in the Sestoso murder in order to hide their guilt or a paid witness by the authorities to cover their inadequacies resolving the case.

Bustamante declared he is not from Guihulngan and he has no relatives there, even the two — Mokong and Sherwin. He added that he even had wanted Sestoso as his defense witness when he was arrested by the military and the police in June 2014 for the death of a certain Narciso Bantoto Jr.

After going over the allegations, the prosecutors said documentary evidences and contrasting testimonies of the witnesses showed there was no probable cause to charge Mokong, Sherwin, and Rene in court for the crime of murdering Sestoso.

On the charge against Rene, the prosecutors found nothing in the evidence of the police that would directly or indirectly implicate him to the crime committed.

The resolution further said that there is nothing to show or even remotely suggest that he ordered or masterminded or even was aware of the alleged plans to kill Sestoso. 

Sestoso’s surviving spouse Lourdes had earlier withdrawn from pursuing the case saying that she did not believe in the theory of the police that the NPA rebels were behind the killing of her husband.

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