The three-man panel of city prosecutors junked the motion for inhibition and transfer venue of preliminary investigation filed by the murder suspects in the killing of Atty. Manuelita “Mia” MascariÃ±as Green.Â
In a three-page order issued on April 11, 2017, the panel members found “no valid reason” to disqualify themselves from the preliminary investigation of the complaint for murder and attempted murder against prime suspects Lloyd Lancer Gonzaga and Romarico Benigi-an
Gonzaga and Benigi-an filed a motion for inhibition with motion to transfer venue of preliminary investigation fearing that the murder complaints “will not be investigated with the utmost impartiality and disinterestedness”.
In a two-page order on April 11, 2017 signed by panel members – Deputy City Prosecutor Bibiana Z. Bautista and Assistant City Prosecutors Adolfo Doroy and Julius Cesar stressed their “sacred duty to apply the law fairly and equitably both to the poor and rich, the weak and the strong, the lonely and well connected”.
Branding the reasons raised by Gonzaga and Benigi-anÂ as “speculative” and a ploy to further delay the resolution of the cases as the motion was received by the Office of the City Prosecutor “only when these cases were already submitted and ready for resolution”.
The counsels for the complainants – former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Bohol Chapter presidents Teodoro Lagang and Menedio Thadeus BernidoÂ and Antonino Amora, Jr. filed a vehement opposition lambasting the murder suspects motions for inhibition and transfer of venue as “a stark display of disrespect and calumny” towards the Office of the City Prosecutor.
The counsels are representing the complainants – Stuart James Green, husband of the slain lawyer and witnesses to the wanton killing allegedly perpetrated by Gonzaga, Benigi-an and two John Does in the presence of their three children and nanny in the late afternoon of February 15, 2017 in Barangay Dao, Tagbilaran City.
Both the prosecutors and counsels maintained that Gonzaga and Benigi-an, contrary to their claims of bias and partiality were still allowed to submitÂ their alleged joint counter-affidavits four days after the lapse of the 10 day period required by the rules of criminal procedure.
In their motion for inhibition, the suspects alluded to the call of the IBP-Bohol Chapter to all members to wear black armbands as a demonstration of their condemnation of the killing of Atty. Green and the open support showed by court employees can be considered as the “prevailing sentiment of the public prosecutors of Tagbilaran City”.
Admitting that the killing of Atty. Mia was “highly condemned by the members of the IBP-Bohol Chapter”, the prosecutors said that “the killing remains highly condemnable by any person including any public prosecutor who knows the circumstances on how the killing was done”.
SLAP ON THE BOHOLANOS
But according to the panel of prosecutors, the fact that the person involved is a well-known personality will not deter them to act objectively based on the evidence presented.
The counsels of the Greens also excoriated the suspects for insulting the Boholanos for their “resounding public outcry” seeking justice for the death of Atty. Green even accusing the prosecutors of losing their partiality and fairness simply becauseÂ of Atty. Green’s active membership of IBP-Bohol.
If granted, the transfer of venue from the city to Manila as requested by Gonzaga andÂ Benigi-anÂ will entail logistical nightmare for the government, prosecution and even the accused considering that the present venue is the most accessible, according to the counsels of the complainants.
The order also noted the filing of complaints for false testimonies against Green and other witnesses but sought the inhibition of the prosecutors of the murder complaints only.
According to Green’s private counsels, the inhibition if granted should be done with the approval of the Secretary of Justice since the directive to create a special panel came from a directive directly from his office.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ll directed the creation of a panel of prosecutors from the Office of the City Prosecutor,Â CityÂ of Tagbilaran acceding to an urgent request of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Bohol Chapter.
IBP Bohol Chapter Board Resolution No. 1, series of 2017 “believe the suspects will try to intimidate the eventual handling prosecutor and creation of a panel of prosecutors would be a strong deterrence to it.”
In response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) directive, City Prosecutor Romeo M. Chatto issued an office memorandum on March 15, 2017 constituting a three-man panel composed of Bautista,Â Doroy and Cesar.
Chatto gave blanket authorization to the panel of city prosecutors to resolve the murder complaints and all other related incidents “with finality and without need of approval” from him.Â (Chito M. Visarra)Â