MANILA — Joel Escorial, the self-confessed gunman in the Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa slay case, will be acquitted if he becomes a state witness, a law expert said Sunday.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) National President Burt Estrada said it is an option for the prosecution to have the accused be discharged by court to be a state witness and use his or her testinomy to solve a crime.
"Pag pinayagan ng korte ay siya’y madi-discharge at ito’y equivalent na sa isang acquittal kung siya’y magte-testify talaga mamaya ‘pag tatawagin na siya ng korte upang ibigay ang kanyang testimonya ukol sa kung anong alam niya doon sa kaso," Estrada said.
"Kung halimbawa, papasa siya doon sa mga requirements. Isa pala sa additional requirements doon is hindi siya ‘yung pinaka-guilty, he’s not the most guilty sa mga akusado at hindi pa siya convicted ng crime involving moral turpitude kasi that would mean na maaaring siya ma-acquit kahit na aaminin niya [na] meron siyang kasalanang ginawa pero dahil siya ay 'least guilty' at may ituturo siya na mas guilty doon sa crime at ang testimonya niya lang ang maaaring makapag-prove."
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla earlier said it is possible that Escorial could end up as a state witness if he provides vital information that could lead to the identification of the mastermind in the killing of Lapid.
Meanwhile, Estrada said Mabasa’s family can also file a motion to the court for an independent autopsy on the body of Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in the killing.
“Whether on not maga-grant ng korte ay nasa discretion po ‘yun ng korte if it’s really essential doon sa kaso na pending,” he said.
An autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Villamor's remains showed no gunshot wound or any external physical injury on the deceased Bilibid inmate, instead pointing to a possible heart problem.
Villamor’s death became controversial because he died hours after he was identified as the middleman.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun earlier told ANC that there could be a legal issue on the request of the Mabasa family for an idependent autopsy.
“Wouldn’t you consider NBI as an independent party? Why would you want request for an independent investigation in the first place if, automatically as I said, there is already an objective, impartial, independent investigation that comes in?” she said.
“What right do they have to ask for one? Because again, the present scenario in the Philippines is you need the next of kin to consent to that procedure.”
For his part, Mabasa family legal counsel Berteni “Toto” Causing said the family is willing to make Escorial a state witness to unmask the mastermind.
“Walang problema. Okay, willing kami [na] tanggapin siya basta it will lead to testimony against the mastermind, the identification of the mastermind,” said Causing.
Escorial will then be under the government’s Witness Protection Program, according to Causing.
He added that there is no law that states that only the immediate family can request for autopsy, specially if it is in the interest of justice and national concern.
“The overriding interest here is the demand for justice,” he said.