February 6, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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DoJ indicts 6 suspects in ‘sabungero’ case

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has found probable cause to file criminal charges against six more suspects in connection with the alleged kidnapping of 34 sabungeros (cockfight aficionados) who remain missing to date.

In a December 22 resolution, the suspects were identified as Julie A. Patidongan, Gleer Codilla, Mark Carlo E. Zabala, Virgilio P. Bayog, Johnry R. Consolacion and Roberto G. Matillano Jr.

In a press briefer, DoJ spokesman Mico Clavano said that six counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention will be filed against the suspects.

“After a careful perusal of the case records, the panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice found probable cause to indict Julie A. Patidongan, Gleer Codilla, Mark Carlo E. Zabala, Virgilio P. Bayog, Johnry R. Consolacion, and Roberto G. Matillano Jr. for six counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code,” it read.

During the preliminary investigation, the DoJ panel of prosecutors found that the respondents conspired in kidnapping and depriving the liberty of victims John Claude Inonog, James Baccay, Marlon Baccay, Rondel Cristorum, Mark Joseph Velasco and Rowel Gomez.

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Case records showed that the missing victims left Tanay, Rizal at around 1 a.m. on Jan. 13, 2022, en route to the Manila Arena to join the six-cock stag derby.

The victims were reportedly forced to board a gray van at around 7:30 p.m. and were never to be seen again, as shown by close circuit television camera (CCTV) recording.

The respondents denied the accusations against them, saying that the witnesses have no personal knowledge of the crime and that some of the respondents were not present during the alleged kidnapping incident.

However, the DoJ panel gave scant consideration to the defense of the respondents in light of the positive identification and credible testimonies of the complainants’ witnesses.

It cited, in particular, the testimony of Venancio Inonog, father of one of the victims, who said he talked via phone call with his son, who informed him they were forced to board a gray van against their will.

Inonog said that his son was able to identify respondents Bayog, Consolacion and Matillano, adding that thereafter, he repeatedly called his son but the cellphone was already turned off.

Furthermore, another witness, Denmark Sinfuego, narrated that he saw respondents Patidongan, Codilla, Zabala, Bayog, Consolacion and Matillano Jr. capture the victims Cristorum, Gomez and Velasco.

Based on the testimonies of witnesses, the prosecution established probable cause against the respondents.

Accordingly, the information against these respondents will be filed before the Regional Trial Court of Manila City.

Last Nov. 25, 2022, a resolution was promulgated regarding the kidnapping of Ricardo Lasco.

During the preliminary investigation, the investigating panel found probable cause against respondents SSg. Daryl Paghangaan as well as Patrolmen Roy Navarete and Rigel Brosas for robbery and kidnapping.

In this case, the complainants positively identified respondents Paghangan, Navarete and Brosas as the alleged kidnappers of Lasco.

Recently, Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla met with officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Philippine National Police (PNP) together with the families of the victims of the missing sabungeros.

In the said meeting, the families described their experiences and detailed the events leading up to the disappearance of their loved ones.

Remulla assured the families of the missing sabungeros that the DoJ, DILG, NBI and PNP are working together for a swift investigation, resolution and prosecution of the case to give justice to their loved ones.

The families were also asked to come to DoJ every second Wednesday of the month so that they can be updated.