Thursday, January 12, 2012

Conspiracy in ’95 murder of Pestaño unearthed

The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday ruled there was conspiracy to murder Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño who was found dead inside a Navy cargo ship in 1995.

As a result, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales reversed the June 2009 joint resolution that dismissed the criminal and administrative charges filed by Pestaño’s parents Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño for the murder of their son.

In a 21-page joint order that granted the Pestaño spouses’ motion for reconsideration, Morales said there was probable cause to indict Naval Captain Ricardo Ordoñez and nine other naval officials for murder.

She also found the respondents administratively liable for grave misconduct and ordered them dismissed from the service.

The nine other naval officials are Cmdr. Reynaldo Lopez, HM2 Welmenio Aquino, LCmdr. Luidegar Casis, LCmdr. Alfrederick Alba, MR2 Sandy Miranda, LCmdr. Joselito Colico, LCmdr. Ruben Roque, Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito Amoroso and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Igcasan.

In the same order, the Ombudsman ruled out the suicide theory as she found prima facie case of conspiracy to commit murder.

The anti-graft office had established a strong case against the respondents after taking a hard look at it, including the additional evidence unearthed in the military investigations which were made available to the complainants 10 years after the death of Pestaño.

The Ombudsman said a case of murder was immediately filed against the 10 Navy officers before the Sandiganbayan.

Prior to his death, Pestaño was assigned to work on the BRP Bacolod City, a supply ship that was allegedly transporting weapons, illegally cut logs and even drugs.

Pestaño had threatened to expose the illegal activities in the Navy but was later found dead in his cabin on board a Navy cargo ship on Sept. 27, 1995.

The Navy declared his death a suicide but his family insisted he was killed and filed murder charges against its officials.

In August 2010, then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez dismissed the murder charges for lack of evidence.

Pestaño’s father in a radio interview after learning about the Ombudsman’s filing of murder case against the 10 respondents expressed elation about the new development regarding his son’s murder.

“We are thankful that the truth about our son’s death is now coming out. It was not a suicide but a murder. From the very beginning, that is what we know,” he has been quoted as saying.

He said there was a massive cover-up in the investigation of his son’s killing, with officials from the Armed Forces, Philippine Navy and the police all saying that Pestaño’s death was a suicide.

Pestano’s father said the evidence against those who murdered his son is very strong.

“It’s not finally but it has been a long period for the real justice to prevail,” he said in the same television interview.
By Arlie O. Calalo
The Daily Tribune

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