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MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals and the Malabon court in discharging Manuel Montero as government witness in the 2007 murder case of Ruby Rose Barrameda.
In a 20-page decision made public Tuesday, the high court’s second division said Malabon Regional Trial Court Branch 170 Judge Zaldy Docena did not act with grave abuse of discretion when he ordered that Montero be stricken off the list of accused to become a state witness.
In agreeing with the appellate court’s decision, the high court said it found that all the requisites under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure have been fully complied with when Docena made the order that Montero is qualified to become a state witness as he does not appear to be most guilty although he is considered as a principal accused by direct participation.
Docena also said that if Montero did not confessed to the crime, including Barrameda’s abduction and subsequent murder, it would have remained undiscovered and unsolved. Likewise, the RTC said Montero has not been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
This decision prompted Manuel Jimenez Jr., the father of Barrameda’s husband, Manuel Jimenez III, to move for the reconsideration of Docena’s order which the appeals court initially upheld in May 22, 2012. However, the appeals court reversed its ruling when the prosecution panel filed a motion for reconsideration, prompting Jimenez to take the case to the high court.
Jimenez Jr. is facing murder charges, while his son was charged with parricide.
Also charged in the case were Jimenez III’s uncle, fishing magnate Lope Jimenez, and alleged henchmen Eric Fernandez, Robert Ponce and Lennard “Spyke” Descalso.
In its ruling, the high court said petitioner failed to prove not merely a “reversible error, but grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of Judge Docena in issuing the impugned order.”
The high court also said the prosecution complied with the requisites of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure contrary to Jimenez’ claim.
“We see no merit in Jimenez’s allegation that no absolute necessity exists for Montero’s testimony. In the present case, not one of the accused-conspirators, except Montero, was willing to testify on the alleged murder of Ruby Rose and their participation in the killing. Hence, the CA was correct in ruling that Judge Docena acted properly and in accordance with jurisprudence in ruling that there was absolute necessity for the testimony of Montero, He alone is available to provide direct evidence of the crime,” the high court said in ruling penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion.
The high court added that it find no merit in Jimenez’ argument that Montero’s testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its material points adding that “the evidence consisting of the steel casing where Ruby Rose cadaver was found, the drum containing the cadaver, the spot in the sea that Montero pointed to where the cadaver was retrieved, the victim’s clothing when she was killed as well as the burned personal effects, all partly corroborate some of the material points in the sworn statements of Montero.”
“With these as bases, Judge Docena’s ruling that Montero’s testimony found substantial corroboration cannot be characterized as grave abuse of discretion,” the ruling said.
Concurring with the ruling are Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama Jr. and Marvic Leonen."