Four of the six suspects initially charged for attempting to lure four Minglanilla Central School pupils into a van last Thursday have been released from detention after the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor did not find enough evidence to charge them during the inquest proceedings.
According to lawyer Vincent Isles, who represents the suspects, only Rhea Mae Sagmon and James Paradela are now facing charges of attempted kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
Isles said that Estela Montes, Marian Serenio, Reymart Abobo and Federico dela Cruz were set free after the inquest prosecutor did not find evidence to charge them together with Sagmon and Paradela.
Last Thursday, the six were arrested by Minglanilla police after they were accused of attempting to kidnap four girls, all elementary school pupils, at around noontime of March 16.
The arrest came after the kids’ parents and a teacher reported the alleged attempt to kidnap the young girls.
Denying the allegations, all six insisted that they were wrongfully accused while Isles clarified that his clients were not arrested but merely invited initially for questioning before they were detained.
The four pupils, whose ages ranged from 9 to 11 years old, claimed to the police that as they were about to enter the school, one of the suspects, later identified as Paradela, approached them and asked about the whereabouts of the guava vendor before grabbing one of the girls by the hand and ordering them to go with him to a white L300 van parked nearby.
The girl, however, managed to free herself from the man’s grasp and ran to their classroom where their teacher and their parents were informed about the incident, who then reported it to the police.
Considering the social media attention that the case has garnered over the last few days, Isles called on the public to not judge his clients immediately, stressing that everyone enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“We shouldn’t hastily judge these people to be the ones responsible for the alleged kidnapping. As far as I know, they are innocent, these people are agents, distributors of a known encyclopedia brand.
“It’s just unfortunate that the public, just because there was a kidnapping incident, would easily put blame on these people. We should always remember that there is always the presumption of innocence,” Isles said in Cebuano.
“It’s unfortunate that we are now in a climate like this where innocent people are dragged to prison, dragged to the prosecutor’s office simply because we believe that they are guilty of something,” the lawyer added.
According to Isles, Sagmon and Paradela will be posting bail today set at P120,000 each. Bail will be shouldered by their employers, said Isles.