Cebu judge convicts driver who helped man who shot broadcaster flee crime scene
The driver of the motorcycle that was used by a man who fatally shot a radio broadcaster in Aklan 13 years ago in his getaway was found guilty of homicide by the Cebu City regional trial court.
Amador Raz, who was identified by the lone witness, a balut vendor, as one of the two men who chased broadcaster Rolando Ureta on the night he was killed on Jan. 3, 2001, wept after the verdict was read to him by a court staffer.
“Wala gyud intawn koy nahibaw-an mahitungod sa krimen. Dili nako mabuhat ang ilang gipasangil kanako. (I have no idea about the crime. I could not afford to do what they are accusing me of),” he told reporters before he was led away by justice department marshals.
Ureta, program director and commentator of radio station dyKR, was killed at around 9:30 p.m on Jan. 3, 2001.
The suspects who were later identified as Jessie Ticar and Amador Raz, trailed Ureta along the national road in barangay Bagto in Lezo town in Aklan while he was on his way from his evening radio program. He was shot three times and was able to run from his motorcycle to a house along the road where he succumbed to gunshot wounds.
Raz, who is detained at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), will be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City where he will serve the remaining eight to 14-year jail term he was ordered to serve. He has been in prison for six years.
The court said the period of detention which the accused already served shall be credited in the service of the penalty imposed against him.
Raz’s lawyers said they will file an appeal to overturn the decision of Judge Sylva Aguirre-Paderanga of Cebu City RTC Branch 16.
Aside from the imprisonment, the court ordered Raz to pay the slain broadcaster’s heirs P50,000 in civil indemnity, P50,000 in moral damages, and P11.8 million in actual damages.
Gerson Sonio, a balut vendor who went into hiding for three years, emerged when the case was transferred to Cebu City RTC and testified against Raz and Ticar who was identified as the gunman.
Ticar surrendered in 2007, but died the following year after he fell ill.
In 2008, the Supreme Court granted the petition of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to transfer the venue of the trial along with the case of the slaying of journalist Herson Hinolan from the Kalibo RTC in Aklan to the Cebu City RTC “to avoid miscarriage of justice and to dispel the impression that a culture of impunity encouraged by government inaction marked the Philippines the ‘most murderous place for journalists.’”
The FFFJ, a coalition of six media organizations, said that “because of the clout and influence of the accused in the area as shown by their ability to unduly influence the investigation of the case, witnesses have been reluctant to break their silence and testify for fear of retaliation.”
In his testimony, Sonio said he was hawking balut along the highway of barangay Bago, Lezo town in Aklan at around 10 p.m. when he heard bursts of gunfire.
He said he then parked his bicycle at the waiting shed and hid behind a mango tree.
Sonio said he saw Ureta ran towards the nearby cemetery before two men on board a motorcycle chased the victim. He said the victim was banging at one of the gates with his hands while shouting for help.
The eyewitness said Ticar then fired three shots at Ureta using a gun which is about seven to eight inches long.
Afterwhich, he said Ticar boarded the motorcycle driven by Raz.
Sonio said he told his wife and father about what he saw and they advised him not to report the incident to the police.
Bothered by his conscience, Sonio sought the help of a journalist who reported the incident to the police.
Sonio later found out that his father had executed an affidavit which stated that he did not witness the crime. He said he tried to confront his father, but the latter was allegedly abducted by someone. He said a lawyer later asked his family to sign a statement that their father was not kidnapped but voluntarily went with them.
In his decision, Judge Paderanga gave weight on Sonio’s testimony over the denial of the accused.
“Both accused (Raz and Ticar) have been positively identified as the perpetrators of the crime. Their defenses of denial and alibi must fail,” she said.
Quoting a previous Supreme Court ruling, Paderanga said “alibi is the weakest of all defenses for it is easy to fabricate and difficult to prove.”
According to Raz he was at home in Numancia town in Aklan, watching television with his family, when Ureta was killed.
But the court said the defense of denial could not prevail over the “convincing testimonies” against the accused.
Raz was originally charged with murder before the court. But Judge Paderanga downgraded it to homicide, saying there are no sufficient evidence to prove two important elements of murder: treachery and premeditation.
The judge noted that the eyewitness did not actually see the “inception of the attack” which is necessary to prove the element of treachery.
“What the witness saw was already when the victim was running and subsequently shot by Ticar three times while Raz was waiting in the motorcycle,” Paderanga said.
Also, the witness’ claimed that he earlier saw Raz and Ticar at the farm of Numancia Municipal Engineer Dominador Alindatu who was the subject of Ureta’s attacks over the radio.
But Paderanga said that what the witness saw at Alindatu’s farm won’t prove that there was evident premiditation or that they were hatching a plot to kill Ureta.
Although Raz could not be held liable for murder, the judge said there is still a strong evidence to prove that the accused is guilty of homicide.
The judge took into consideration the account of the eyewitness who identified Raz as the driver of the getaway motorcycle.Although Raz, didn’t actually shoot the victim, Paderanga said the accused still conspired with the gunman by driving the getaway motorcycle.
“Their acts clearly demonstrate a unity of purpose or concerted action in killing the victim,” the judge said.
Paderanga considered the testimonies of the eyewitness as “categorical, consistent, and devoid of any ill or vile motive.”
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