MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate President Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. has entered his appearance and that of the law office of Kapunan Tamano Javier and Associates before the Sandiganbayan third division as private prosecutors in the murder case against 10 retired and active officers of the Philippine Navy in connection with the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño in 1995.
They are representing spouses Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño, parents of Philip Andrew, who was allegedly killed for his objection to the use by his superiors of Navy vessel BRP Bacolod City to transport hot lumber of suspected illegal drugs.
Charged with murder were Navy Capt Ricardo M. Ordoñez; Commanders Reynaldo P. Lopez and Alfrederick A. Alba; Lt Commanders Luidegar C. Casis, Joselito L. Colico and Ruben B. Roque; Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Sandy P. Miranda; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Welmenio U. Aquino; Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito B. Amoroso; Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Y. Igacasan and a “John Doe.”
They have denied the accusation insisting that Pestaño committed suicide in his ship cabin using a gun borrowed from another ship officer.
Sandiganbayan legal division chief Ruth Ferrer explained that a private prosecutor maybe allowed to enter an appearance in a case where there is a private complainant like the Pestaño case.
“A private prosecutor may conduct direct and cross examinations on witnesses to be presented although he will be under the supervision of the public prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman,” she explained.
The defendants have moved for the dismissal of the case due to alleged lack of jurisdiction by the Sandiganbayan.
Defense lawyers Ana Luz B. Cristal and Donnabel Cristal Tenorio argued that the case ought to be remanded to the Ombudsman because under Section 4 sub-paragraphs (a) and (d) of RA No. 8249, otherwise known as the Sandiganbayan charter, the court’s exclusive jurisdiction only cover military officers who bear the rank of colonel in the army or the air force; and “naval captains and all officers of higher ranks” at the time of the commission of the offense.
Among all the defendants, Ordoñez held the highest rank, retiring as Naval Captain on Dec. 26, 2005. (A naval captain is equal to the rank of a colonel in the Army.)
However, the defense noted that when Pestaño died in 1995, Ordoñez was still a Lt Commander hence outside the rank requirement of the Sandiganbayan. – Rappler.com