Raps vs N. Vizcaya ex-judge draws public outrage
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–People from various sectors of society in this province on Tuesday expressed shock and disgust over the tagging of a retired regional trial court judge here as the alleged brains behind the killing of a human rights lawyer more than two years ago.
Members of the public and private sector said they were appalled that police investigators took the word of a self-confessed killer that implicated former judge Jose Rosales for the June 2010 slay of lawyer Ernesto Salunat, Sr.
“The prosecutor’s office should not believe the statement of a self-confessed criminal and a hired killer who conveniently recants his statements. The honorable judge should be spared of this baseless accusations and a thorough investigation should be conducted,” said lawyer Dominica Dumangueng-Rosario, former provincial chapter president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Rosales was implicated in the Salunat slay by Romel Laciste, the self-confessed gunman and an escaped murder convict from the National Bilibid Prison, and one Aries Valentin, the driver of the motorcycle the duo used in the crime.
Members of the Solano police on Monday filed criminal charges against Rosales and Laciste, using as sole evidence the sworn statements of Laciste and Valentin.
On Tuesday, the 76-year old Rosales faced the media to belie the accusations, expressing lament that he was being accused of such crime “at this stage of my life”.
“What I cannot understand is why the police did not conduct further follow-up investigation on the matter to ferret out the truth. Is this the old police ploy of pinning an innocent person as the author of the crime so that they can say that they have solved a puzzling crime?” he asked, reading from a handwritten prepared statement.
Rosales said police could have easily inquired from him the veracity of Laciste’s claims, as he has spent most of his post-retirement life staying at home in Solano.
“Why would I mastermind the brutal murder of my friend, Attorney Salunat, for whom I have high respect as a lawyer, despite his flaws as a person? What possible motive do I have to desire (his) violent death? Did this police inquire unto this? Did the police inquire as to what kind of person I am? Apparently they did not for I have been a staunch advocate of the rule of law whether in or out of the government,” he said.
Even members of the Salunat family said they, too, did not believe Rosales was involved in the lawyer’s murder because “he did not have any motive”.
“We were also surprised he is now being listed as a suspect when we have never known that he and my father had any misunderstanding before,” said Early Joy Salunat, the lawyer’s daughter and legal assistant.
In separate statements issued before investigators at the police regional headquarters in Tuguegarao City, Laciste and Valentin admitted their roles in the killing of Salunat in front of the municipal trial court in Solano town in the morning of June 22, 2010.
Laciste said he managed to sneak out of the Isabela provincial jail in Ilagan City twice to carry out his mission, supposedly with the help of a jail guard identified only as “Celestino”, who purportedly provided the Honda TMX motorcycle that the duo used.
Valentin supposedly acted as driver and lookout.
Both suspects said that after the shooting, they drove to this capital town where they met up with an “old man”, who they only knew as “Judge Rosales”, near a park at the provincial capitol grounds here.
The old man supposedly handed to Valentin a white business envelope and said in the dialect, “Kumpleto nga 100,000 dayta (That’s P100,000 in all).”
The suspect’s sworn statements, however, did not give details as to how the plan to kill Salunat was hatched.
Tricycle driver Allan Dematilla of Solano town said he, too, was in disbelief upon hearing the news that Rosales was being accused of the killing.
“I know him as a humble and soft-spoken person, despite his status as a retired judge. I always wanted to give him a free ride in my tricycle but he would always insist on paying,” he said of the retired RTC judge for 17 years and a former dean of the college of law of Saint Mary’s University here.
Sought for comment, Senior Supt. Valfrie Tabian, provincial police director, declined to comment on criticisms that police had done a “sloppy” work for tagging Rosales.
“(The filing of the charges) was a joint effort the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) and the Solano police. It was the CIDG that conducted the investigation and the local police in Solano just filed the case before the (Department of Justice),” he said.