AÂ non-bailable order of arrest was issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 48, City of Tagbilaran for Lloyd Lancer SylioÂ Gonzaga, one of the prime suspects in the killing of Atty. Manuelita MascariÃ±as-Green for violation of Republic Act (R.A.) 10591 known as the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act”.
The warrant of arrest is unrelated to the murder of Atty. Green on February 15, 2007 where Gonzaga, Romarico Templado Benigi-an and two John Does were tagged by police authorities and several witnesses as the alleged gunmen.Â
The arrest order issued by RTC Branch 48 Presiding Judge Jorge CabalitÂ on April 7, 2017 stemmed from a joint order by the Provincial Prosecution Office of Bohol on March 31, 2017 indicting Gonzaga and Benigi-an for unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition and violation of RA 9165 known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.”
The joint order of the Prosecution was hastened by the denial of the motion to quash filed by Gonzaga and Benigi-an issued by RTC Branch 2 Presiding Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos ruling that the search warrant issued by her on the premises of Alona Embrace Hotel was valid.
The speedy issuance of the order of arrest was in pursuant to an omnibus order dated April 5, 2017 issued by Executive Judge SucesoÂ Arcamo for a special raffle that followed in the assignment of the case to Branch 48 under Judge Cabalit.
Special raffles are allowed on cases on meritorious application in writing by any party to the case and with the approval of the Executive Judge, according to the Supreme Court.
Gonzaga and Benigi-an were arrested by a police composite team on October 13, 2016Â inside the premises of Alona Embrace Hotel located at Purok 7, Barangay Tawala, Panglao and “were able to seize and confiscate” several handguns, silencers, ammunition, shabu and other drug paraphernalia.
But Gonzaga was released on bail and the complaints forÂ violation of RA 10591 and RA 9165 were dismissed by Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Mildred Maglajos in a joint resolution on November 24, 2016 on the grounds that the small hut where the firearms and illegal drugs were found was not indicated in the sketch described in the search warrant.Â
Also, according to the joint resolution, Benigi-an was “merely carrying out his duty as a security guard of Dagohoy Security Agency” based on the certification of Juan Sebusa, it’s Chief Security Officer.
Upon receipt of the Prosecution’s resolution, Police Senior Inspector (P/SInsp) Edwin Mateo Lacostales, Bohol Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (BCIDG) Provincial Officer filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) with aÂ motion for inhibition against Prosecutor Maglajos on March 2, 2017.
The BCIDG disagreed with the resolution of the Prosecutor on the grounds that the hut where the firearms and illegal drugs were discovered, although not withinÂ the scope of the search warrant “is adjacent to the main residence, but still within the premises of the respondent’s residence.”
Lacostales also presented an “affidavit of recantation of previous declaration” by Sebusa that his first affidavit was executed under duress after Gonzaga and Benigi-an “threatened to kill me if I will not cooperate with them”.
Sebusa also claimed in his recantation that “their lawyer, a certain Atty. Donalvo, threatened me that he will find ways to close the Dagohoy Security Agency if I will not execute the said affidavit.”Â
Moreover, Sebusa said “that because of too much fear I was forced to execute the said affidavit of witness even if I had to tell a lie for security reason”.
The BCIDGÂ added that the name ofÂ Benigi-an did not appear in the records of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig as an employee of Dagohoy Security Agency.
REVERSAL OF ORDERS
However, before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office could resolve the MR filed by the BCIDG, Presiding Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos of the RTC Branch 2 issued an order denying the motion to quash search warrant filed by Gonzaga and Benigi-an a month after the raid.
In herÂ January 12, 2017 order, Judge Marcos ruled that the search of Gonzaga’s premises and seizure of firearms, ammunition and illegal drugs and paraphernalia is valid while Benigi-an failed to show documents showing the legality of his possession of a gun found tucked in his waist after being frisked by the raiding team.
Upon receipt of the order denying the motion to quash search warrant by Judge Chavez-Marcos, Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Eric M. Ucat, in a seven-page joint order on March 31, 2017 “reversed, set aside and modified, accordingly” the November 24, 2016Â joint resolution dismissing the complaints against Gonzaga and Benigi-an.
The joint order for the filing of information for violation of RA 10591, section 11 and 12, article 11 of RA 9165 was approved by Provincial Prosecutor Macario DelusaÂ that led to the order of arrest of Gonzaga “who is said to be found at Alona Embrace Hotel, Tawala, Panglao, Bohol.”Â (Chito M. Visarra)