CA allows filing of charges vs frat member in 'Salubong' blast

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has approved the filing of criminal charges against a member of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) involved in the explosion that injured many law students during the 2010 Bar examinations Salubong held at Taft Avenue.

The CA's Special Fourth Division has denied the petition of Anthony Nepomuceno which sought to nullify a resolution issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 27, 2011.

The 17-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Francisco Acosta, and concurred by Associate Justices Noel Tijam and Agnes Reyes Carpio.

In the 2011 petition, the DOJ said it found probable cause to file criminal charges against Nepomuceno for multiple frustrated murder, multiple attempted murder, and illegal possession of explosive. He allegedly threw the grenade during the Salubong.

Nepomuceno questioned this before the appellate court, and complained of inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses presented by the National Bureau of Investigation.

But the CA said the "perceived inconsistencies" still does not invalidate the investigating prosecutor's finding of probable cause against the petitioner.

"In fact, considering the suddenness of the incident and the overall ruckus attendant at the last Sunday of the Bar examinations, the slight inconsistencies in the statements of the witnesses are deemed natural," the decision read.

The court noted that the DOJ did not commit grave abuse of discretion in recommending the filing of information against Nepomuceno.

It also agreed with the investigating prosecutor that Nepomuceno resorted to denial and alibi but was not able to show through evidence or his witnesses that it was physically impossible for him to be present in the scene of the blast.

"We are not preemptively judging the merits of Nepomuceno's case nor are we ruling on his culpability or the lack thereof. At this point in time, these matters are best left to the proper court which is tasked to assess the merits of a party's accusation or defense, as well as the weight and probative value of evidence presented," the CA said.

Nepomuceno earlier submitted a photocopy of a receipt issued by an automated teller machine of a Metrobank branch in Marikina, but the DOJ said he failed to prove the receipt belonged to his account.

The department also noted the two-hour difference between the blast (5:10 pm, September 26, 2010), and the issuance of the receipt (7:49 pm, September 26, 2010). –