MANILA, March 14, 2004
(STAR) By Jose Rodel Clapano - Independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson said yesterday his lawyers will ask the Supreme Court (SC) for an extension of the period within which to answer a petition filed by state lawyers seeking to set aside a lower court decision dismissing the Kuratong Baleleng case against him and then try it in a family court.

During a brief break from his campaign sortie in Bulacan, Lacson said his legal counsels are still gathering the documents necessary to answer the petition.

"We are given 10 days to respond. I talked to my lawyers and they told me that they are still consolidating all the documents, so they will ask for an extension to answer," he said.

Last Friday, the SC had directed Lacson and 33 other co-accused in the Kuratong case to answer the petition within 10 days and ordered Quezon City regional trial court Judge Theresa Yadao to justify her dismissal of the case for lack of probable cause.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Office of the Solicitor General, asked the SC earlier this month to reverse and set aside the decision made by Yadao to dismiss the case and have Lacson and 33 other co-accused arrested for the murder of 11 members of the robbery gang in May 1995.

State prosecutors also asked the SC to prohibit Yadao from proceeding with the case and "command" her to immediately transmit the entire records of the case to a family court since two of the victims were minors.

Lacson said the DOJ apparently twisted the law because the family court was created to protect minors who are living witnesses to a crime.

"The petitioners are seeking to transfer the case to the jurisdiction of the family court. But the intent of the law is to protect living witnesses. I don’t see it is being given due course because the minor in the Kuratong Baleleng case is already dead," he said.

State lawyers blamed Yadao’s apparent bias for the respondents, saying she "abused the trust reposed upon her as a neutral dispenser of justice."

In October last year, the SC had upheld its April 1, 2003 decision to reopen the controversial case, denying a motion for reconsideration filed by Lacson.

The case was shuffled to Yadao, who then dismissed the case in November for lack of probable cause and denied the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration last January.

State lawyers said Yadao had ruled they did not have ample witnesses and evidence, as if a trial on the merits of the case had already been held.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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