>> Thursday, February 28, 2013
DAGUPAN CITY – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Thursday questioned the writ of amparo issued by the Supreme Court last Tuesday that paves the way for the bid of the father of the 16-year-old witness who tagged Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. in the killing of Infanta town Mayor Ruperto Martinez last December, to regain custody of his son.
De Lima likened the issuance of the extraordinary relief to the case of former National Bureau of Investigation director Magtanggol Gatdula who got a writ of amparo from the Manila regional trial court last year but which the SC voided recently.
“Like in the Gatdula case, this may very well be another case of misuse of the extraordinary remedy of a writ of amparo,” she said in a statement.
De Lima vowed to challenge the propriety of the SC’s issuance of the writ in the petition of Jaime Aquino.
She said she could not believe how Aquino convinced the SC to issue the writ based on allegation that the DOJ and NBI “abused” and enticed his son into pointing to Espino and Pangasinan first district Rep. Jesus Celeste as the alleged masterminds in the Martinez killing.
“More than anything else, the DOJ/NBI simply act as the protectors of the subject minor witness and the investigators of the illegal/criminal acts narrated by said minor witness. Are these acts of ours unlawful? This is our mandate,” she said.
In its regular session, the Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeals to hear the case and decide on the petition of Jaime Aquino to transfer the custody of his son to him.
The CA was directed to hear the petition on Feb. 28 and decide on the case after 10 days.
“The SC resolved to order respondents (National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice (DOJ) and Akap-Bata foundation) to make a verified return of the writ of amparo within 72 hours from receipt of the writ,” the SC public information office said in a text message to reporters.
Aquino, who was also implicated by his son in the murder case, asked the SC to order the DOJ to turn over the boy to him.
He said his son was “abused” and “forced" by authorities to tag Espino, Pangasinan first district Rep. Jesus Celeste and himself in the murder of Martinez.
Aquino, who was accompanied by his wife, Ester, told reporters that their son was lying when he tagged Espino and Pangasinan first district Rep. Jesus Celeste as the masterminds in the killing of Martinez.
Aquino, a writer of a weekly newspaper in their province, said the testimony of his son was not credible.
In a 13-page petition, Aquino said his son was “abused” by authorities and the Akap-Bata Foundation, a non-government organization that took the boy into custody when he left their home on Nov. 1, 2012.
He said the boy “had been restricted of liberty by the NBI and the NGO. It is serious illegal detention considering that the minor was held against his will with a promise of reward should he agree to sign the perjured affidavit.”
Aquino said parents cannot bear even a minute more of pain of not seeing their minor son and keeping him in their custody to give the love and care that only the father and the mother can give.
Aquino added he and his family are on the run because of his son’s accusations.
He also sought a temporary restraining order to stop the DOJ from proceeding with its preliminary investigation based on his son’s testimony.
The NBI filed murder charges against Espino, Celeste and Aquino based on the minor’s “personal knowledge” of the killing.
The witness, who has been placed under the witness protection program, claimed he was present during a meeting at a beach resort in Bolinao town in November 2011 when Espino allegedly planned the killing of Martinez.
In his affidavit, he said he heard the governor saying Martinez should be killed in order to prevent him from implicating Espino in an illegal mining project in the province.