August 17, 2006

As charges against MVF, others dismissed
Councilor Chua: The fight goes on
On Jimmy Chua case

In a 17-page resolution dated July 7, 2006, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed the complaints for murder of the late Laoag City Vice Mayor Jimmy Chua against Laoag City Mayor Michael V. Fariñas, and for violation of P.D. 1829 (Obstruction of Justice) against P/Supt. Joel Pagdilao, LC Councilor Melvin M. dela Cuesta, and others for "lack of probable cause."

The late Vice Mayor was shot and killed on the early morning of Febryary 2, 2005 at the Eagle's Nest restaurant in Laoag City.

The decision was penned by 1st Assistant City Prosecutor Cielitolindo Luyun, chairman of the three-man panel, and State prosecutors Nolibien Quiambao, and Phillip dela Cruz.

The decision has elicited mixed reactions from both parties.

In an interview with the Ilocos Times, Chevylle Fariñas, the wife of LC Mayor Fariñas, expressed her gratitude to the Almighty as she said "I felt so happy and thankful to God for this blessing. I think this would be the best birthday gift for my husband he has received." Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Renato Peralta, an uncle of the mayor, also expressed approval and enjoined the public to respect the DOJ decision. "We should respect the decision of the DOJ since the matter was studied very carefully and that it even took more than a year and still the findings are for dismissal. Of course some (the opposition councilors) are questioning the decision of the DOJ, but what they say are just their opinions," Peralta said.

As of presstime, Mayor Fariñas, who is currently vacationing in Europe with his family, could not be reached for his reaction.

Attorney Sandra O. Coronel, representing the Chua family, emailed her statement to the Ilocos Times: "The Chua family is dismayed at the Resolution and determined to seek a reversal thereof by the Secretary of Justice, in accordance with the Rules of Court. Sadly, this distressing situation is the result of the decision of witnesses to keep silent about what it is they know or saw. It is hoped that the families of hapless victims like them should not have to suffer the same fate as the Chuas - to know the truth, but not see it known by all."

Coronel further said that the decision of the DOJ panel was based mainly on the retraction of Melvin dela Cuesta, who had changed his testimony five times, and that the panel did not consider the (physical) evidences presented. "If that's the case, then the least they (the panel) could have done was to charge dela Cuesta," Coronel said. She will meet with the Chua family and discuss with them about the resolution, and what move to make. According to her the best option is to file a "petition for review" (of the case) to the Secretary of Justice.

For his part, LC Councilor Edison Chua stated to the Ilocos Times "The fight must go on" in referral to their intention to appeal the decision and continue the quest for justice for his slain brother.

LC Councilor Vicentito Lazo also expressed frustration and disappointment adding that they are also advising the Chua family on the legal options for an appeal or petition for review to the DOJ secretary. He stated that the decision ignored the physical evidences presented by the NBI on "procedural grounds." Further, he noted that nowhere in the resolution was made mention of the testimony of then Councilor, and now LC Vice Mayor Marlon Manuel, as well as the testimonies of Dr. dela Cruz and Dr. Caday who attended to the late Vice Mayor when his body was brought to the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital (provincial hospital). According to Lazo, the testimonies of the attending physicians were important in determining the exact time of death.

Lazo said "According to the doctors on duty, Jimmy Chua when brought into the hospital was already in rigor mortis; meaning he had been dead for at least two hours, not dead on arrival (DOA) as alleged by some of the respondents. There is a big difference." He also expressed doubts as to the conduct of the case further adding that he with other councilors, including Edison Chua, had officially visited DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales last July 21 and that they were not informed that a decision had already been reached. They had even been at the office of chief prosecutor Zuño at the DOJ to ask an appointment date with DOJ Sec. Gonzales last July 7, the date the resolution was signed. In an interview over DZEA yesterday (August 16), Lazo said he believes that the interests of justice have not been served.

Reacting to the decision, acting City Mayor Marlon Manuel said that it would be up to the legal counsels of the complainant to look for remedies wherein they may file a motion for reconsideration or probably appeal the same to the office of the President.

Steve T. Barreiro with reports from Dominic dela Cruz

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