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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A policeman and digital imaging expert identified one of the 4 suspects of the high-profile murder of a US Marine in Makati as the assailant who inflicted the fatal stab wound on the victim, the prosecution told Rappler on Thursday, February 7.
The defendant was not singled out by name but his physical description in the CCTV footage matches the features of 24-year-old Juan Alfonso Abastillas, according to Philippine National Police (PNP) investigator Noel Cuestas, assigned to the PNP Anti-Transnational Cybercrime Division and presented as a witness by the prosecution.
Cuestas showed the court enlarged fragments of the video of the brawl that led to the death of George Anikow, a US Marine and husband of an American diplomat assigned to the embassy in Manila.
Makati City assistant prosecutor Hannah Arriola said that during the last bail hearing on January 31, Cuestas was able to capture the exact moment in which the right hand of Suspect No. 1 comes close to the left side of Anikow's neck.
The victim is already bleeding in the next fragment, and the medical officer who conducted the autopsy confirmed the wound was fatal.
'Suspect No. 1' is assailant - PNP expert
Suspect No. 1 was identified as a young man wearing spectacles, a black polo shirt and dark blue jeans, a description that corresponds to that of Abastillas.
Abastillas was dressed in the same clothes when he was arrested and brought to the Makati police station after the incident, based on police reports.
Rappler observed during the trial that he is the only defendant who wears glasses.
Cuesta was however unable to ascertain if the object that the suspect was holding in the sequence was in fact the murder weapon, a bloodstained tactical knife found inside the silver Volvo SUV that Abastillas was driving when Anikow confronted him and his 3 friends at a security checkpoint outside the upscale Rockwell residential area in Makati.
Arriola said that on cross-examination, the defense tried to refute the testimony of the witness.
Jay de Castro, counsel for Galicano Datu III, complained that Cuestas' presentation of evidence was "biased" toward the prosecution because he only analyzed certain portions of the video and not the whole sequence.
Cuestas was also unable to identify a second witness that appears in the video: a taxi driver who saw the brawl from start to finish but fled the scene after the suspects.
Neither his face nor the license plate of his cab could be enlarged with sufficient quality, the policeman said.
Prosecution wraps up case on bail
The defense is arguing that the suspects not only did not conspire to kill Anikow but that it was the victim who provoked them, and given that he is considerably taller and stronger than any of the 4 defendants, there was no abuse of superior strength.
Both intent and abuse of superior strength are needed to uphold the murder charge.
Despite the evidence pointing to Abastillas as the one who inflicted the fatal stab wound, Arriola said the prosecution will maintain the muddier charges against all 4 suspects.
After presenting her 4 witnesses, the prosecutor on Tuesday, February 5, submitted her final arguments on her petition to deny bail to Judge Winlove Dumayas of Makati City Regional Trial Court No. 59.
Dumayas has given both sides until February 15 to file motions and additional documents before he decides on whether or not to grant bail the following week.
Asked about how she expects the judge to rule, Arriola admitted that she is "50/50" but hopes the suspects will remain behind bars, as they could very well decide to leave the country if they are released on bail.
"The prosecution fears that if bail is granted, there is a high risk of flight," she said. - Rappler.com