MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima ordered the filing of murder charges against former Davao Del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas and several others for the death of journalist Nestor Bedolido Sr.
In a 16-page resolution, De Lima ordered the filing of murder charges against Cagas, Mayor Vicente "Butch" Fernandez, Ali Ordaneza and Bado "BadoBaritua" Sanchez and ordered the withdrawal of information (charge sheet) against Voltaire Mirafuentes and Artemio "Dokdok" Timosan Jr.
Mirafuentes was admitted to the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP) while there was not enough evidence that Timosan conspired with the other respondents.
Bedolido Sr., a consultant for the weekly Kastigador, was shot dead at Quezon Avenue corner Rizal Avenue, Davao, Digos City on June 19, 2010 by one of two motorcycle-riding men.
Mirafuentes surrendered to the police a few months after the incident and admitted his participation in the killing and executed an affidavit testifying what transpired prior to the killing.
In his affidavit, Mirafuentes identified Cagas and Fernandez as the alleged masterminds while Ordaneza and Sanchez participated in the planning to kill Bedolido.
In dismissing the case against Cagas and the others, the city prosecutor and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said the rights of the respondents should not be prejudiced by the confession of Mirafuentes. It pointed out that his extrajudicial confession was binding only to him.
But De Lima said that such a rule was applicable only to cases filed in court and during the preliminary investigation stage.
"Such rule will prevent witnesses to repeat in court during the trial their extrajudicial confessions and result in the loss of opportunity to transpose such confessions into judicial admissions to render them admissible in evidence," De Lima said in her resolution.
"Applying the principle at this point will stifle the prosecution. This will be inconsistent with the nature or purpose of a preliminary investigation which is to determine probable cause only," she added.
Mirafuentes, in his testimony said Cagas, through Ordaneza called him and his brother at the governor's house where the murder plan was allegedly hatched. He said it was agreed that he would be the triggerman while Sanchez would identify Bedolido.
De Lima said Mirafuentes' statement was positive and categorical and sufficient to form reasonable belief that murder was committed and that "Cagas, Fernandez, Ordaneza and Sanchez are probably guilty thereof."
With regards to Mirafuentes' credibility, De Lima said it would be best addressed during a full blown trial.
On Timosan, De Lima said there was not enough evidence to show that he conspired with the other respondents as she noted that the only evidence against him was a testimony that he was present when the shooting took place.
De Lima gave the prosecutor 10 days to report the action taken regarding her ruling.