CA affirms Gatdula acquittal in kidnapping

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 28 2014 08:23 AM | Updated as of Apr 28 2014 04:23 PM

MANILA - The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed its decision clearing dismissed National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) directror Magtanggol Gatdula in the alleged kidnapping and extortion of P6 million from Japanese woman Noriyo Ohara in 2012.

In a three-page resolution released last week, the CA’s former Sixth Division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking to use the findings against Gatdula in the preliminary investigation on the complaint filed by Ohara.

“The motion has not raised any new or substantial ground to warrant a reversal or even modification of our findings,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon.

Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Hakim Abdulwahid concurred in this ruling.

The CA reiterated that the findings of the DOJ probe panel created by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima are “inadmissible” as evidence in the preliminary investigation on Ohara’s complaint.

The CA agreed with the ruling issued by the Manila regional trial court, which declared the fact-finding probe as unconstitutional for violating Gatdula’s right to counsel and to remain silent since the investigation was conducted by pretense of custodial questioning.

Because of this, the CA held, the results of the probe should be considered “fruits of the poisonous tree” – a kind of evidence prohibited in court.

With this ruling, the DOJ will have to resolve the kidnapping charges based solely on the testimony of Ohara vis-à-vis defense and evidence presented by Gatdula and other respondents.

In her complaint filed in February 2012 , Ohara accused Gatdula of conspiring with other respondents – dismissed NBI-Security Management Division chief Mario Garcia; his executive officer Jose Odelon Cabillan; their informants Chona Elen Esplana, SMD civilian agent Virgelito Gutierrez and security volunteer Jay Ducusin Gutierrez; and Gatdula’s special assistant Raul Dimaano – in kidnapping her and extorting P6 million from her.

In its report, the fact-finding panel concluded that based on the testimony of Cabillan, Gatdula “appears to have prior knowledge and participation as well as in its cover-up” in the operation to abduct and extort money from Ohara.