Two accused in 2004 slay of journalist acquitted

Source: CMFR

A Manila court has acquitted the alleged gunmen in the 2004 killing of a broadcaster in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. Ilocos Norte is a province 399 kilometers north of Manila.

Branch 54 of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) cleared former Senior Police Officer Apolonio Medrano and Basilio Yadao of charges for the murder of Ilocos Norte-based broadcaster Roger Mariano in 2004. The decision was signed on 6 August 2010 and promulgated 11 August 2010.

Mariano was on his way home from the dzJC radio station when armed men attacked him along the national highway in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte on 31 July 2004. Mariano was allegedly looking into suspected anomalous transactions at the local electric cooperative before he was killed. His widow Alma Mariano asked that the case against the alleged gunmen be transferred to Manila in 2005 for fear that the witnesses could be influenced by the accused. Her request was granted and the trial resumed in 2006.

Branch 54 Judge Reynaldo Alhambra said in his 06 August 2010 decision that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were the same men who attacked and killed Mariano.

The judge also said that the identification of the accused was “certainly difficult, if not impossible” to establish. His decision enumerated the testimonies of eye witnesses and concluded that “their narrations may have been embellished to the point that these are contrary to the natural and logical consequences of what they claimed to have been the events that transpired that night.”

“In this case, the quantum of proof required to justify a conviction for a criminal offense was not satisfied by the prosecution. Thus, the Court has no option but to uphold the constitutional presumption of innocence in favor of the accused.”

Mariano’s relatives were disappointed with the result of the trial. “We are very saddened by the decision and we felt that we were robbed of the justice we deserve. It’s frustrating for us and makes us question the integrity and credibility of our justice system,” a family representative told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

They expressed their appreciation of the support of media advocacy groups, and are consulting their lawyer to determine their next course of action.

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CMFR (http://cmfr.com.ph/) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.