Court orders release of woman mistaken for human trafficking convict

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol January 25,2017 - 07:12 PM
A female BJMP personnel (left) escorts Jocelyn B. Cardona (center) after she was ordered released by Judge Jose Nathaniel Andal of RTC branch 24 on Wednesday afternoon. With them is Jocelyn B. Cardona's legal counsel Atty. Glen Villariza. (CDN PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MANINGO)

A female BJMP personnel (left) escorts Jocelyn B. Cardona (center) after she was ordered released by Judge Jose Nathaniel Andal of RTC branch 24 on Wednesday afternoon. With them is Jocelyn B. Cardona’s legal counsel Atty. Glen Villariza. (CDN PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MANINGO)

CEBU CITY–A Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge in Cebu City on Wednesday ordered the release of a female detainee who was arrested by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7) after she was mistaken to be a convicted human trafficker.

In his order, Judge Jose Andal of RTC Branch 24 noted the findings of a fingerprint examiner that the fingerprints of Jocelyn Cardona were different to that of the real accused who has the same name with the petitioner.

The judge also agreed with the observation of the prosecution that the real accused had a mole on her lower jaw based on the records of the court.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the prosecutor and a representative of the International Justice Mission (IJM) examined the face of Cardona and did not find any mole.

Judge Andal was convinced that the CIDG-7 got the wrong person.

“The fingerprints belong to two different persons. The negative finding is already conclusive as far as the expert is concerned,” Andal said.

“The prosecution were satisfied that the herein movant is not the same Jocelyn Cardona indicted in the Information. The court joins the observation of the prosecution. The movant should, therefore, be released from custody,” he added.

Cardona, 38, has been detained for 36 days.

The judge ordered law enforcers to arrest the real Jocelyn Cardona who was convicted, along with two other persons, of human trafficking last year.

Lawyer Glen Villariza, the counsel of the petitioner, said they could not blame the CIDG-7 for arresting the wrong person.

“There was no middle name on the warrant of arrest,” he told Cebu Daily News.

Still, Villariza said they were studying the possibility of filing countercharges against the CIDG-7.

Last year, the court convicted three human traffickers, including one Jocelyn Cardona, who was out on bail.

The CIDG-7 operatives, Villariza said, looked for the real accused by searching her name on Facebook.

“My client’s name is also Jocelyn Cardona so they thought she was the same person convicted by the court,” the lawyer said.

On Dec. 21, 2016, the CIDG-7 operatives served the arrest warrant on Villariza’s client at her house in Ronda town, south Cebu—85 kilometers away from Cebu City.

The woman was subsequently detained at the Cebu City Jail Female Dormitory.

Her family requested Villariza to assist them in seeking her release.

Villariza said he filed a pleading in court to release her client who was not even charged with a single case in court.

The court requested Senior Insp. Maria Lela Carado of the Philippine Crime Laboratory to conduct a fingerprint examination on Villariza’s client on Wednesday.

Carado then ruled that the woman’s fingerprints are totally not the same with that of the real accused.

Supt. Royina Garma, the new chief of the CIDG-7, begged off from issuing any statement, saying she has no idea yet about the case.

“I have not read the case yet nor have seen the warrant of arrest. I’ll reserve my comments once I perused them,” said Garma who assumed her post only last Jan. 4 or two weeks after the wrong person was arrested.

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, Central Visayas, CIDG-7, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, human trafficking, judge, Justice, mistaken identity, Regional Trial Court

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