Twenty-five days after the ruthless killing of Atty. Manuelita “Mia” Mascariñas-Green, law enforcement agencies are still standing by for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the four suspects of her savage murder, while progress in the preliminary investigation of the complaint of murder is keenly anticipated by the public.
According to police authorities, the absence of a warrant of arrest against the suspects has tied their hands since all arrests should be made only on the basis of a valid arrest warrant issued by a competent authority, except when the law allows warrantless arrests.
Tagbilaran City Police Station Chief of Police, Police Superintendent (PC/Supt.) Nicomedes Olaivar in a recent DYRD interview, the manhunt for the assassins is still continuing while expressing helplessness over the absence of a warrant of arrest for the four suspects especially Lloyd Lancer Sylio Gonzaga, Romarico Benigi-an and two “John Does” who were allegedly identified by eyewitnesses at the crime scene.
A bounty of PhP600,000.00 has been offered by the Green family and civic groups for information leading to the arrest of the killers of Atty. Mia.
With the murder suspects still scot-free, police declared the murder of Atty. Mia a “cleared case” pending the resolution of the preliminary investigation of the murder complaint and the eventual issuance of an arrest warrant, if probable cause exist.
Police consider a case cleared when at least one of the offenders has been identified, there is sufficient evidence to charge him, and he has been charged before the prosecutor’s office or any court of appropriate jurisdiction.
However, recent developments over a complaint of illegal possession of firearms, explosives and illegal drugs against the suspects before Provincial Prosecutors Office raised the expectations of the police that a warrant of arrest is imminent.
RULES OF COURT
At the level of the Office of the City Prosecutor, subpoenas to submit their counter-affidavits, witnesses and other supporting documents have been sent to the known address of Gonzaga and Benegi-an at the Alona Embrace Hotel located along Ester A. Lim Drive, Purok 6, Tawala, Panglao.
The respondents were given up to March 20, 2017 to comply with the requirements of the subpoena which shall be subscribed and sworn to and certified by the investigating prosecutor which means that the respondents must generally be present during the submission of their counter-affidavits.
City Prosecutor Romeo Chatto told the Chronicle that if the respondent fails to heed the subpoena, the complaint shall be resolved based on the evidence presented by the complainant.
Within a 60-day period, the investigating officer shall determine whether or not there is sufficient ground to hold the respondents for trial or dismiss the complaint, according to Chatto.
Murder complaints were filed at the Office of the City Prosecutors Office by Atty. Mia’s husband, Stuart James Green against alleged assailants Gonzaga and Benegi-an and two other “John Does” on February 24, 2016.
SHOT IN THE ARM
On the other hand, Presiding Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 2 denied the motion to quash search warrant issued on October 11, 2016 on the premises of Alona Embrace Hotel, the known residence of Gonzaga on the grounds that high caliber firearms were allegedly stashed in the hotel.
The raid was conducted by combined elements of the Regional and Provincial Police units led by the Bohol Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (BCIDG) on October 13, 2016 based on a search warrant for an “immediate search” issued by Judge Marcos.
Several firearms were seized from a hut near the residence of Gonzaga including illegal shabu and paraphernalia but the search was dismissed by Investigating Prosecutor Mildred Maglahos due to a defective search warrant.
In denying the motion to quash, Judge Chavez-Marcos, citing Supreme Court jurisprudence declared that the search and seizure valid and the allegations raised in the motion may be brought to the attention of the prosecutor’s office.
Upon learning of the order, the BCIDG who also filed their own MR before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor believed that the order of Judge Chavez-Marcos will bolster their position and lead to the elevation of their complaint to the RTC.
The BCIDG maintained that the search and seizure of firearms and illegal drugs in the premises of the residence of Gonzaga including the arrest of Benigi-an for illegal possession of a .38 caliber revolver while claiming as a security guard of Dagohoy Security Agency were within the bounds of the law.
On March 6, 2017, Juan Sebusa, Chief Security Officer of Dagohoy Security Agency recanted his previous sworn declaration that Benigi-an was connected with the Dagohoy Security Agency.
Sebusa claimed that he executed his affidavit under duress from Gonzaga, Benigi-an and a certain Atty. Donalvo who threatened to kill him and find ways to close the security agency.
Well-placed sources from the Prosecutor’s Office told the Chronicle that the recent order of Judge Chavez-Marcos denying the motion to quash filed by Gonzaga and Benigi-an will strengthen the MR filed by the BCIDG and will positively affect the legal outcome for the finding of probable cause and the eventual issuance of a warrant of arrest.
Gonzaga and Benigi-an were ordered released on bail after their arrest on October 13, 2016 for illegal possession of firearms and illegal drugs. (Chito M. Visarra)