MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the revival of the kidnapping with ransom case against former Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and his son, Haider Isnaji, in connection with the abduction of an ABS-CBN News team in 2008, and ordered the setting aside of a trial court order last year that acquitted them.
In a 15-page decision penned by Associate Justice Romeo Barza, the appellate court's Eleventh Division found merit in a petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) assailing an order dated April 12, 2010 by the Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 271 denying OSG’s motion to defer promulgation of judgment to further present evidence.
The appellate court said that the trial court rendered its ruling with "grave abuse of discretion," thus, the doctrine of double jeopardy did not apply in the case.
"[T]he doctrine of double jeopardy, as correctly argued by the petitioner, could not come into play... the decision acquitting private respondents of the crime of kidnapping with ransom is hereby recalled and set aside,” the decision read.
Alvarez and Haider Isnaji were detained from June 2008 to April 12, 2010. They were released after they were cleared by the trial court for the kidnapping of broadcast journalist Ces Drilon and her crew, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderrama, on June 8, 2008.
The appellate court remanded the case to Taguig RTC Branch 271 Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes “for further appropriate proceedings” noting that it "violated petitioner’s (OSG) right to due process.”
Drilon and her TV crew, along with Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo who served as guide, were en route to an exclusive coverage in Sulu province in southern Philippines when they were abducted by armed men who later demanded for "board-and-lodging" payments.
They were freed eight days later.
The captors themselves alleged that they handpicked the Isnajis to negotiate for the TV crew. The Isnajis were subsequently accused of plotting the abduction.
The decision was concurred by Associate Justices Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente and Edwin Sorongon.