Court acquits ex-Sulu vice governor Estino of homicide


MANILA, Philippines – A division of the anti-graft court acquitted former Sulu Vice Governor Munib Estino of homicide and obstruction of justice charges that were filed against him in 2013, saying the prosecution failed to present enough evidence.

Estino was charged for the February 2010 fatal shooting of Mannan Badang, a resident of Panglima Estino town when he was its mayor. He was indicted for homicide based on the testimony of the victim's son, who said the incident happened inside the temporary municipal hall.

The mayor’s aide, PO2 Hector Abubakar, owned up to the shooting, but was charged with obstruction of justice along with Mayor Estino for allegedly making false statements.

But the Sandiganbayan First Division noted that prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence of the suspects' guilt. The 13-page decision, penned by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, granted the Demurrer to Evidence filed by Estino and his co-accused. Associate justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos concurred.

Prosecutors proferred the theory, that Estino shot Badang when the latter became hostile during th arbitration of a problem. But the defense said it was Abubakar who fired at Badang because the latter tried to attack the mayor with a bolo.

“The evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to support a verdict of conviction. The prosecution failed to prove one crucial point – that accused Estino was responsible for killing Badang. There is no competent proof on record linking accused Estino to the said killing,” the court said.

Aside from finding more plausible the defense's version of events, the Sandiganbayan division disregarded the affidavit of prosecution witnesses because none of them appeared in court to testify.

“The affidavit of the supposed witnesses…cannot be given probative value. In our jurisdiction, without affirmation from the affiants of the contents of their affidavits, and without opportunity from the contending party to cross-examine them render their depositions hearsay evidence,” the court said. –