Former Ubay Mayor Galicano Atup was cleared by the 6th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Ubay and President Carlos P. Garcia of orchestrating a fake warrant of arrest to ensure his victory in the May 2013 elections that allegedly led to the defeat of his close political ally but now a bitter political rival, incumbent Mayor Constantino Reyes.
In an eight-page order issued on October 25, 2018, Judge Designate Samuel Amila Biliran resolved to grant the demurrer to evidence of Atup for the failure of Reyes to establish the authorship of the falsified document beyond a reasonable doubt.
Demurrer to evidence refers to a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant after the plaintiff has rested its case, on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.
Judge Biliran ordered the dismissal of the case and the name of Atup dropped from the record’s file for all legal intents and purposes.
Atup who won in the controversial 2013 elections but lost to Reyes in 2016 is now gunning for a return run against his bitter political rival in next year’s May elections.
Reyes, who was running for mayor against Atup in 2013 blamed his defeat by what he described as a slim margin of 1,191 votes to the distribution of copies of a warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan two days before the elections.
In the May 2016 elections, Reyes won by a vote of 17,105 against Atup’s 13,675. It was still a three-cornered fight with Atty. Danilo Mendez at the tail-end with 572 votes compared to 1,182 in 2013.
FAKE ARREST ORDER
The assailed warrant of arrest was found out later to have been falsified after the Sandiganbayan Second Division issued a certification on September 2, 2013, that there was no criminal/civil case filed against Reyes.
The real warrant of arrest was issued to Ricardo Enriquez Rotoras on September 12, 2011, President, Mindanao Polytechnic State College with the address at Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City.
The doctored warrant of arrest was issued for the arrest of Reyes on May 10, 2013 and was distributed among the voters of Ubay two days before the elections, according to Reyes.
Reyes pointed at Atup as the mastermind of the operation that caused the distribution of the falsified arrest order and was backed up by three witnesses.
In his judicial affidavit, Reyes accused Atup of altering the details in the warrant of arrest validly issued against Rotoras by “superimposing” his name, Constantino Reyes over the name of Rotoras.
The case no. SB-10-CRM-0222 remained the same in both the warrants of arrest to make it appear that the Sandiganbayan ordered me arrested, according to Reyes.
In his letter to Justice Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos, Chairperson of the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division, Reyes implicated Mendez who ran for mayor in a three-cornered fight in the 2013 Ubay elections for mayor.
A staff of Mendez, executed an affidavit stating that Reyes “pinpointed” the camp of Mendez as the ones responsible for the alleged falsified document and could have also gained from the alleged falsified order of arrest.
Atup, in his defense, through his counsel Atty. Teodoro M. Lagang of the Villas Lagang Tumanda Law Offices, maintained his innocence of the charge of falsification of public document.
According to Atup, the prosecution did not present the genuine document and no one testified that he authored the falsification.
The court admitted the testimonial evidence of Rogelio Gabisan Auditor, Niceforo Atup and Joel Rubillo, all witness for the prosecution.
According to their testimonies, the three claimed that they were personal bodyguards of Atup, seen him fish out from a box a piece of paper which he bragged as a warrant for the arrest of Reyes.
The three witnesses also claimed that they heard Atup order his followers to distribute the warrant for the arrest Reyes to all the voters of Ubay.
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
However, the court heavily relied on a legal presumption by the Supreme Court that a person in possession of a falsified document and took advantage and profited from it, the clear presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification.
The court also strongly upheld the presumption of innocence of the accused as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The prosecution, according to the court, failed to prove that Atup personally or through others authored the erasure of the name of Rotoras in the original warrant of arrest and superimposed the name of Reyes in the falsified warrant.
After the court has made its judgment, the political fate of the two bitter political rivals will now rest with the 41,792 registered voters casting their votes on May 13, 2019 including perennial candidate Danilo Mendez and Indalicio Reyes. (Chito M. Visarra)