NIDA MURDER CASE: BACK TO SQUARE ONE; MAGDALO TRIAL DELAYED ANEW
MANILA, January 9, 2004 (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has summoned anew three Atlanta Center security guards who were on duty at the time multi-awarded actress Nida Blanca was killed in 2001.
NBI agents said the testimonies of Diolito Molinez, Roberto Cañete and Ricky Alvarez will help strengthen the case against Blanca’s American husband, Rod Lawrence Strunk.
The Philippine government is set to re-file an extradition case against Strunk, the principal accused in the Blanca murder, after the government petition was junked by US District Court Judge Gregory Hollows, who said there were inconsistencies in the evidence against Strunk
An NBI agent said Molinez, Cañete and Alvarez were initially charged for conspiracy in Blanca’s murder, but they were eventually cleared.
"Now that there is a need to pursue the case, we will need their testimonies. They should have seen something unusual hours before the actress was found dead," an agent of the bureau said.
Authorities are also set to meet with Kaye Torres, Blanca’s only daughter, to finalize strategies in the re-filing of the extradition case against Strunk so he can face trial for the murder of Blanca.
NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco said those attending the meeting with Torres are agents of the NBI, state prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and investigators from the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Wycoco said Torres’ legal counsel, Harriet Demetriou, is also expected to attend the meeting set for next week.
The NBI chief said investigators, state prosecutors and private lawyers have discussed point-by-point and line-by-line the US judge’s decision to junk the plea of the Philippine government to extradite Strunk to face murder charges.
The NBI tagged Strunk as the principal suspect in the murder of Blanca, Dorothy Jones in real life, whose body was found inside her car parked at the sixth floor of Atlanta Tower in Greenhills, San Juan last Nov. 7, 2001.
The NBI case against Strunk had been anchored on the testimony of self-confessed killer Philip Medel Jr., who claimed Strunk hired him to kill Blanca.
Though Medel retracted, charges were filed against Medel and Strunk . A Pasig judge eventually issued warrants of arrest against the two.
Court delays trial of Magdalo soldiers anew By Nikkon Dizon The Philippine Star 01/09/2004
For the fifth time, arraignment of the 31 Magdalo men of the failed July 27 Oakwood mutiny has been reset by the court.
"The arraignment of all the accused is suspended until the court resolves all pending incidents to Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.," Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 Judge Oscar Pimentel told the jampacked courtroom yesterday after a two-hour hearing.
At least a dozen defense lawyers filed six different motions before Pimentel prompting him to reset the arraignment.
Primarily, the defense lawyers, among them Rene Saguisag, Homobono Adaza, and Theodore Te, questioned the decision of RTC Branch 61 Judge Romeo Barza to consolidate the mutineers’ coup case with that of former Estrada administration Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Ramon "Eki" Cardenas.
"We are against the consolidation because it was not defined (by Judge Barza). And the consolidation shouldn’t be the case," Te, of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), said.
Te explained that while the junior officers and Cardenas are both facing coup d’etat charges, "there are different arguments and evidence" for each case.
Another defense lawyer, Wylie Paler, added that the two cases are already in different stages of the trials, nothing that Cardenas had already been granted bail while the mutineers have yet to be arraigned.
Saguisag said the lawyers want their clients to be tried separately from Cardenas.
Te also filed a motion to quash information for some 290 enlisted men now under court martial and their release from detention at the Philippine Army’s Intelligence Service Group (ISG) in Fort Bonifacio.
The coup d’etat charge against the enlisted men had been dropped by the Department of Justice (DOJ) after a re-investigation but were still court martialled for lesser offenses.
Another lawyer, Alfredo Ligon III, filed a petition for review with the DOJ questioning the prosecutors’ probable cause finding against 1st Lt. Rex Bolo of the Army Scout Rangers.
Paler said the new arraignment date remains tentative until the judge is able to decide on all the motions and petitions.
The Magdalo were set to be arraigned last Dec. 15, 2003 but Barza reportedly fell ill and reset it to yesterday.
In any case, another court appearance by the mutineers would mean another fans’ day for them.
Yesterday, female employees at the old justice hall rushed out of their offices to get a glimpse of them.
The mutineers’ military escorts had to use one of the accused from the Philippine Air Force as a decoy to divert the employees’ attention from the rest of the group.
The Air Force man was escorted across the quadrangle to a waiting vehicle outside the main entrance amid screams from adoring female employees.
After minutes of waiting for the rest of the mutineers to follow, the employees saw the group pass another exit at the back of the justice hall to two waiting vans at the parking lot.
Employees followed the group and excitedly waved goodbye to them.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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