Reduce charge to homicide, says suspect in Marine's murder

MANILA, Philippines - One of the 4 suspects in the murder of a US Marine in Makati two weeks ago has asked the court to reduce the charge to homicide, a bailable offense, the prosecution said on Monday, December 10.

In an urgent motion for judicial determination of probable cause, defendant Osric Cabrera argued that he only "intended to repel" the initial aggression of the victim, US Marine George Anikow, and moved away from him after Juan Alfonso Abastillas stabbed him, as seen on the CCTV footage.

Moreover, Cabrera "could not have expected" that Abastillas would wield a knife and use it upon Anikow and "there was no time to conjure a plot" to kill the American, according to the motion.

Cabrera, Abastillas and co-defendants Crispin de la Paz and Galiciano Datu are accused of murdering the US citizen after a brawl at a security checkpoint outside Rockwell, an upscale residential area in Makati.

CONTROVERSIAL LAWYER. Atty. Redemberto Villanueva used to defend former ARMM Gov Zaldy Ampatuan, a suspect in the massacre trial. Photo from Comelec

CONTROVERSIAL LAWYER. Atty. Redemberto Villanueva used to defend former ARMM Gov Zaldy Ampatuan, a suspect in the massacre trial.

Photo from Comelec

Controversial lawyers

For the trial that is soon to begin, the Cabrera family has hired Redemberto Villanueva and Roy Allan Arellano, both controversial lawyers who recently defended Zaldy Ampatuan, the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor and principal suspect in the Maguindanao massacre case.

Villanueva's assets were frozen when a former aide of the Ampatuan clan claimed he was given P50 million to bribe judges to exclude Zaldy, patriarch Andal Ampatuan and other family members from the trial.

The lawyer has since handed over representation of Zaldy to Ampatuan main defense counsel Sigfrid Fortun, another high-profile defense lawyer with a history of defending unpopular clients.

He also defended Eduardo Escobal, the leader of a San Beda College fraternity in relation to an investigation on the death of a freshman law student Marc Andre Marcos in a suspected hazing incident.

Villanueva survived in 2008 an attempt on his life presumably related to a case while walking to his house in Timog Ave, Quezon City.

INDICTED. Cabrera is fingerprinted before being booked for the crime at the Makati police station after his arrest. Photo courtesy of Makati police

INDICTED. Cabrera is fingerprinted before being booked for the crime at the Makati police station after his arrest.

Photo courtesy of Makati police

'Chance encounter' with victim

In their motion, Cabrera's lawyers Villanueva and Arellano claimed that Anikow had "superior strength" over his assailants due to his height and combat training as a US Marine.

The incident, the document said, was "merely a chance encounter" that should never be considered as murder, and "at most (…) should be merely homicide" and in any case the circumstances fail to prove the defendant was "complicit in the death."

The motion, filed on December 5, will be heard on Wednesday, December 12 at the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 49.

Makati City assistant prosecutor Hannah Arriola told Rappler the other defendants are considering filing similar motions for the court to revise the charges, and the judge will probably give them two weeks to prepare their arguments before RTC Presiding Judge Leticia Morales issues a ruling.

"They are not denying there was a crime, but [they claim] it should be homicide, not murder," she explained.

The court is waiting to formally arraign the 4 suspects, indicted on November 29 and now incarcerated in the Makati City Jail after being transferred from the detention cells of the Southern District police station where they had been held since they were arrested on November 24.

VIDEO DOESN'T LIE. Osric (wearing a dark jacket) stands with his back to the camera while his friends attack Anikow. Screenshot from video courtesy of the Makati police

VIDEO DOESN'T LIE. Osric (wearing a dark jacket) stands with his back to the camera while his friends attack Anikow.

Screenshot from video courtesy of the Makati police

No planning, no murder

In a previous interview with Rappler, Cabrera's father said that only those suspects who were seen stabbing the victim -- Abastillas -- should be behind bars, not the rest who only engaged him in a fistfight.

Dr. Jose Cabrera also stressed that there cannot be a murder charge without intent to kill: "What constitutes murder? (…) a premeditated plan (…) but they did not know [the victim], they met him because he tried to harass [the suspects]."

"There is no murder, not even homicide because there was no planning," he said, and explained the boys were "just trying to talk it out" with Anikow before the brawl started.

Makati police chief Senior Supt. Manuel Lukban disagreed and "it was not only the stabbing incident that caused the death" of Anikow, and called attention to the CCTV footage which shows, according to him, how the suspects continued to punch Anikow after one or two of them had already stabbed the American.

Lukban noted that "there was cruelty on their part, and this is a qualifying circumstance for murder." - Rappler.com