July 04 - July 17, 2005
OPINION

IN & OUT
Steve T. Barreiro

Lusot sa gusot?

In a total departure from his 4th affidavit implicating Mayor Michael Farinas in the death of Vice-mayor Jimmy Chua, LC Councilor Melvin Dela Cuesta by virtue of his latest (6th) affidavit, has reverted back to his original stand pointing to a motorcycle riding gunman as the assassin.

The implications are clear; in this case there are two essential elements in determining probable guilt; positive I.D. supported by physical evidence. In some cases, physical evidence alone is sufficient to ascertain the identity of the criminal. However in this case, the recovered forensic evidences are not sufficient to determine the identity of the assailant; for example the murder weapon has not been recovered. While the evidences strongly point out that the Vice-mayor may have been shot inside the restaurant, there is no clear physical indicator as to who pulled the trigger. In fact, everyone placed at the scene immediately prior to and after the shooting must necessarily be considered suspect. A proper investigation should have subjected everyone who was last seen or known to be with the Vice-mayor to paraffin testing or other tests. Why this was not done may be attributable to one of two things - ineptitude or deliberate inaction. The latter implies a cover-up.

With the inability of the forensic evidence to pinpoint the assailant, Mr. Dela Cuesta, by coming out so far, as the only one to have witnessed albeit two different versions of the shooting, is the only source for positive I.D. The recantation of the 4th affidavit presumably exculpates LC mayor Michael Farinas from charges of the unbailable variety. Lusot sa gusot?

The crux of the case revolves around the determination of whether the crime happened In or Out. For the sake of argument, granted that the evidence is beyond reproach and the Vice-mayor is determined to have been killed inside, without a positive I.D., everyone at the crime scene at the time is suspect for pulling the trigger. While the public perception may have an answer, this is not so for a court of law.

Sources have intimated that the defense strongly objected to the admission of the ABS-CBN video of the crime scene. The front of the entrance to the restaurant which the LC PNP has insisted is the crime scene is strangely minimal, the spot where the vice-mayor supposedly fell marked by two visible drops of blood. Also, there were no traces recovered from the fence or anywhere in the immediate vicinity. In contrast, blood samples were recovered in the area where the Vice-mayor was seated inside the restaurant. According to my sources, a garden umbrella with traces of blood was recovered during the investigation of the INPPO on the morning of February 2, from inside the restaurant. This umbrella presumably covered the table where the Vice-mayor and companions were seated; according to my source the evidence would suggest that when the Vice-mayor was shot, some of his blood splattered upward. I had been aware of this from the beginning however I promised my source that I would not divulge this knowledge until the evidence was presented in court to avoid preempting due process. Then again, this evidence while potentially damning does not tell who shot the vice-mayor. With the matter of positive I.D. resolved, expect the defense to attack the evidence.

This case is still in the preliminary stage; formal charges have yet to be filed in a court of law. The objective of the DOJ panel hearing the case is to determine probable cause only; it is the responsibility of the courts to ascertain guilt. Stay tuned.

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When Mr. Dela Cuesta issued his ambivalent April 8 recantation, this in effect laid the foundation for the probable exculpation of the mayor from any unbailable raps. This marked a shift in the administration stance from defensive to offensive. This was the point wherein the members of the opposition bloc of the council were subjected to increasing attacks from some sectors of media and city officials; what Councilor Jay Ramos has referred to as an "orchestrated campaign of harassment." Coincidence?

-000-

The debate over the veto override of the LC budget has spilled onto the Provincial Board. While the Hon. Peralta may have raised some valid points, the issue as to whether the Vice-mayor should be included in the determination of a 2/3 majority vote is debatable in the absence of any clear provision on this matter.

I was initially impressed by the call of the veteran board member to set aside the vested interest; however coming from someone who takes a position favorable to a nephew; who is married to a city official appointed by his nephew; and who is the father of a councilor who voted against the override, the statement obviously does not hold water.

While the Provincial Board may be organizationally superior to the City Council, this does not imply that the members thereof are "betters". In this case, perhaps the veteran "better" may take a cue from his "lesser", LC council member Vice-mayor Marlon Manuel, who has consistently inhibited himself from taking positions in cases where a conflict of interest may be present. The word is delicadeza. Expressing a stand wherein a nephew, a wife, and a son, will conceivably benefit is not illegal in any way; that it is inappropriate, certainly, just like the controversial telephone call to a COMELEC official. Serving the vested interest?

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OPINION

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