MANILA - The Court of Appeals has cleared 17 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) members of murder charges in connection with the 2008 Parañaque shootout that left 16 people dead.
In a 10-page decision penned by Associate Justice Socorro Inting, the CA's Special Seventh Division denied the petition filed by Mrs. Lilian de Vera seeking the reversal of the order issued by Regional Trial Court of Paranaque City, Branch 260 presiding Judge Jaime Guray which cleared the PNP-SAF members of any criminal liability for the death of her husband Alfonso "Jun" de Vera and her daughter Lia.
The appellate court said there was no showing that the judge committed grave abuse of authority that would warrant the reversal of his judgment.
It agreed that prosecutors failed to show strong evidence to support its claim that the accused PNP-SAF members conspired with the operatives of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) in perpetrating the crime.
Those cleared in the murder charges are P/Supt. Jonathan Calixto, P/CInsp. Hermogenes Cabe, P/SInsp Abraham Abayari, P/Insp Erikson Roranes, P/Insp Ludivico Cordova, PO1 James Yodong, PO1 Allan apil, PO1 Efren Angcuan, PO1 Lloyd Bulayungan, PO1 Nemesio Gano, PO3 Hagar Torres, PO3 Jericho Otaboy, PO3 Guilbert Lopez, PO3 Felix Base, PO3 Eugene Papatew, PO3 Policarpio Jose, Jr., PO1 Sherwin Maybanting.
In the complaint, Mrs. De Vera accused the policemen of violating the PNP's rules of engagement that led to the death of her husband and daughter.
She said her husband, Alfonso De Vera, and daughter were on board their Isuzu Crosswind when they were intercepted by policemen inside the United Parañaque Subdivision IV in Sucat district on December 5, 2008.
She said the policemen were cordoning off the area in an attempt to block members of the so-called Waray-Waray Ozamis robbery syndicate who engaged policemen in a running gunbattle.
The policemen, according to the complainant, might have mistaken their van, with license plate van XEW-327, for one of the getaway cars of the suspects.
Mrs. De Vera said her husband and daughter were on their way to pick her up in Pasay City as they agreed to have a late snack together.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), which recommended the filing of the charges against the policemen, also gave credence to the affidavits of witnesses Ronald Castillo and Hilario Indiana.
Indiana testified that De Vera and her daughter were not killed during the shootout between the accused and the robbers.
In fact, Indiana said there was no exchange of bullets as the policemen were in complete control of the area where the two were killed.
Castillo on the other hand, corroborated Indiana's account that the accused strafed at the Isuzu, Crosswind then being driven by De Vera, instantly killing his daughter who was seated in front of the vehicle.
Castillo further narrated that when De Vera alighted from the van to carry his daughter to safety, the policemen followed and shot him in the head.