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By Miriam Garcia Desacada (The Freeman) | Updated October 31, 2015 – 12:00am
TACLOBAN CITY , Philippines— After more than five years of detention, the three policemen—accused of murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder during an ambush outside the house of Charlie Chong in Naval town of Biliran—were finally freed.
The three policemen, Jovito Cabillan, Charlie Ando Jr. and Renato Saul, bursted into tears of joy after Judge Altone Miralles, of the Regional Trial Court in Tacloban City, acquitted them from the crimes.
“For the failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the (three) accused are hereby acquitted from all the crimes charged,” stated the dispositive portion of a 12-page decision of Miralles promulgated yesterday.
Charlie Chong, father of former Biliran congressman Glenn Chong, who was the private complainant, the families of the victims and their lawyers did not show up during the promulgation in court, where the families and lawyers of the accused yelled with joy over the decision.
Cabillan and Ando, both members of the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group in Biliran, and Saul, who was then assigned to the Biliran Police Provincial Office, were accused as the gunmen in the attack on Chong and his two bodyguards and a civilian.
The incident happened outside the Chong residence at Barangay P. Garcia in Naval town at around 7 p.m. on June 7, 2008. Three assailants fired at Chong but missed, shot dead his security escorts, Alberto Parilla and Antonio Barcelo, and wounded a certain Jose Casas.
Close to two years after the incident, Cabillan, Ando and Saul were tagged as the assailants and the Biliran prosecution’s office accused the three of “conspiring and confederating and mutually helping one another with the intent to kill Chong, Parilla and Barcelo using high-caliber firearms,” which also resulted in the serious wounding of Casas. When the case was filed in court, the three policemen were committed to prison on January 2010.
The RTC, however, found no “conspiracy” after all and that there was no proof that the three were actually the assailants, considering that it was dark at the time to identify them correctly. Even the wounded Casas failed to identify the three as the perpetrators.
The testimonies of all prosecution witnesses failed to prove any conspiracy, and that these could not be offered as evidences to establish conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt, the court said.
Ando, who kept himself composed while the verdict was read, later said his priority now is to recover all that was lost of him during his detention. “I will go back to police service,” he said. His daughter Vanessa added that she will now continue her nursing studies, which was stopped when her father was imprisoned.
Cabillan’s 21-year-old son Jovi, shortly before the promulgation, was resigned to whatever the court decision would be, but when the decision came out, he told The Freeman: “There is real justice in the country.”
Senior Superintendent Domingo Cabillan, elder brother of Jovito Cabillan, also hailed Judge Miralles decision. “My brother is now a free man, and can go back to his work as a police officer. I want him to start a new life.”
Lawyer Emmanuel Tabao, counsel of Cabillan, said they are now studying what possible civil damages they could file against the complainant who, he said accused his client of “fabricated charges.” (FREEMAN)