Panel of 5 named for Archival case
Cebu Provincial Prosecutor Pepita Jane Petralba formed a five-member panel to handle the murder case filed against five members of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG)-7 who were implicated in the Feb. 18 ambush-slay of lawyer Noel Archival and his two aides.
Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Petronio Elesterio, Jay Paradiang, Rustom Presas, Ferdinand Collantes and Al Rey Ouano were tasked to conduct the preliminary investigation.
“Most of them are senior prosecutors. But the reason they were assigned to handle this particular case is that these five prosecutors have few out-of-town cases,” Petralba told Cebu Daily News.
Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-7 filed charges of multiple murder and frustrated murder against Senior Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, HPG-7 director; Senior Supt. Joselito Lerion; Chief Insp. Eduardo Mara; SPO4 Edwin Galan; PO1 Alex Bacani; and several unidentified persons who allegedly conspired in the killing of Archival and his companions.
Petralba said she decided to form a panel of prosecutors in this case because it is “highly controversial”.
She said she wanted to ensure they take the right steps in the preliminary investigation.
The chief provincial prosecutor said the respondents have 10 days from receipt of the subpoena to submit their counter-affidavits.
As a procedure, prosecutors have 60 days to resolve a complaint which undergoes preliminary investigation.
“While the general rule says 60 days, it can go beyond in some instances when we are faced with a complicated case,” she said.
Petralba said the findings of the panel of prosecutors will be reviewed by another prosecutor before this will be forwarded to her for approval.
On the respondents’ plan to ask all prosecutors in Cebu to inhibit themselves, Petralba said, “That’s the right of all the accused and we will not deprive them of that right,” but she clarified that they will have to evaluate first whether any request for them to inhibit has enough and reasonable basis. Prosecutors usually inhibit if either complainant or respondent are relatives or close to them.
“What if the parties involved was a classmate or friend of the handling prosecutor/s? We have to consider the legal and ethical reasons. If it will affect the outcome of the case, then prosecutors have to let go of that case,” said Petralba.
In an earlier interview, lawyer Inocencio Dela Cerna, counsel of the respondents, said he will ask all Cebu prosecutors to inhibit themselves from handling the case. The case against Archival has been well-publicized in Cebu and unfavorable public opinion may prove prejudicial to the outcome of the case, he said.
He wants the Department of Justice in Manila to conduct the preliminary investigation.
Archival, along with his companions Candido Miñoza, Alejandro Jayme and Paolo Cortes, were ambushed while travelling along the national road in Dalaguete, southern Cebu in the afternoon of Feb. 18, 2014. Only Cortes, Archival’s on-call assistant, survived the attack.
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