DOJ finds probable cause vs 21 suspects in Caramoan massacre

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2015 01:32 PM | Updated as of Aug 21 2015 09:32 PM

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a resolution that found probable cause to charge members of the Sagip Kalikasan Task Force (SKTF) with murder pertaining to the "Caramoan massacre" on March 22, 2014 that led to the death of four local miners in Sitio Campo, Barangay Gata, Caramoan, Camarines Sur.

The Special Panel of Prosecutors tasked to conduct the preliminary investigation of the complaint filed by the kin of victims Julio Labiano, Rene Labiano, Salem Virtus, and Jesse Brondia, found probable cause against respondents Joel Breso, Servillano Espares Jr., Francisco Tria III, and eighteen John Does.

The panel gave weight to the testimonies of seven witnesses in favor of the complainants, including one eye witness and several corroborating witnesses. Another witness testified to having allegedly heard the respondents plan the killing, while another, Barangay Gata chairperson Mercy Sueno, testified to a "brewing animosity between the local miners and the members of the SKTF."

"[T]he killings were attended by the qualifying circumstance of treachery as testified by witness... The victims, who were simply having dinner and drinking after work, were caught off guard when respondents Breso, Espares Jr., and eighteen other unidentified men shot the former point blank, leaving them no chance at all to evade the onslaught.

"The panel observed that the method of inflicting harm by respondents Breso, Espares Jr., and the eighteen other unidentified men ensured that they would fatally kill the victims without risk to themselves," the DOJ said.

However, the case against respondents Angelo Refran, Luis Palaganas, Saetiel Pielago, Jonah Bolima, and Florencio Vargas was dismissed since "the records are bereft of any showing that the aforementioned respondents directly participated in the killing of the victims. Neither could they be said to have acted in conspiracy with the concurred in or, in any way, participated towards the unified purpose of respondents Tria III, Breso, and Espares of killing the victims."

The criminal informations for murder have already been filed against Breso and Espares; the DOJ will amend the information to include Tria III.