Supreme Court Sets Hearing on Kuratong Case vs Lacson; CA Had Ruled against Refiling of Charges
Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN
The Supreme Court decided yesterday to conduct a public hearing on the government's plea to reverse a Court of Appeals ruling that nullified the refiling of multiple murder charges against Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson in the death of the 11 members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang in 1995.
In a full court resolution, the High Court said, "Let this case be set for oral argument on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 10 a.m.
The High Court acted on the petition filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) when the Court of Appeals in August last year nullified the refiling of the cases against Lacson, on the ground that the lower court decision in 1999 provisionally dismissing the charges became permanent two years later.
The DoJ said that there was enough evidence to pin down Lacson in the Kuratong Baleleng case but it was dismissed by the Quezon City regional trial court (RTC) when witnesses recanted their testimonies.
When three new witnesses surfaced and testified, the DoJ said there was enough reason and evidence to refile the murder charges against Lacson. This prompted prosecutors to refile the charges in May last year. Lacson challenged the revival of the case first before the RTC and later with the appellate court which sustained him.
In ordering the dismissal of the refiled cases, the CA said the investigation conducted by the DoJ that led to the refiling of multiple murder charges against Lacson was null and void and that "hints of persecution are manifest" in the revival of the cases.
With the ruling, the CA - the second highest court of the land - ordered the Quezon City regional trial court (RTC) where the cases were refiled to dismiss the criminal charges sheets as violative of Section 8, Rule 117, of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure adopted last year.
Section 8 of Rule 117 on the provisional dismissal of criminal cases provides that "with respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six years, their provisional dismissal shall become permanent two years after the issuance of the order without the case having been revived."
The decision was written by Associate Justice Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Conrado M. Vasquez Jr., Hilarion L. Aquino, and Josefina Guevara Salonga.. Associate Justice Buenaventura J. Guerrero dissented.
Thirty-seven other police officers and men re-charged in the Kuratong Baleleng case benefited from the CA decision. …