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Navy officers tagged in Pestaño slay case want to be tried by military court

MANILA, Philippines —The Navy officers accused of murdering Ensign Philip Pestaño want their case to be tried by members of the military.
In a manifestation and motion filed on Wednesday, they asked the Sandiganbayan Third Division to refer their case to a military tribunal because of national security issues and because the case would involve military terminologies that civilians might not fully understand.
According to the accused, their case should be transferred because all of them are or were members of the military and because the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been investigating military personnel on the alleged cover-up of the Pestaño murder case. The accused have filed complaints before the military against Pestaño’s classmates for allegedly covering up his suicide.
Pestaño was found dead inside the Navy’s BRP Bacolod City on September 27, 1995, with a gunshot wound on the head.
Earlier investigations ruled his death a suicide, but his parents refused to believe this and filed a complaint for murder against several Navy officers.
Last month, the Office of the Ombudsman filed murder charges before the Sandiganbayan against Capt. Ricardo Ordoñez, Cmdr. Reynaldo Lopez, Hospital Man 2 Welmenio Aquino, Lt. Cmdr. Luidegar Casis, Lt. Cmdr. Alfrederick Alba, machinery repairman 2 Sandy Miranda, Lt. Cmdr. Joselito Colico, Lt. Cmdr. Ruben Roque, PO1 Carlito Amoroso and PO2 Mil Leonor Igcasan.
But the officers have contested their indictment and insisted that Pestaño took his own life. They also questioned the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction over the case because based on the rank of the officers when the offense was committed, their case must be handled by a regional trial court or a military tribunal.
In their latest pleading, the accused said their case should be under a military tribunal because of national security concerns. The navy ship where Pestaño died would be subject to ocular inspection, the accused pointed out..
“Hence, the defense capability of the country’s naval force will be exposed to the public as well as to the enemies of the state, including but not limited to terrorist groups,” they said.
According to the accused, four of them are senior intelligence officers holding sensitive positions in the Navy.
They cited the need for military experts in the court martial because during the preliminary investigation of the case, technical and military terminologies and theories that were foreign to civilians were raised.
The accused also noted that a Manila court could have jurisdiction over the case as well on the basis of the Navy headquarters being  in Manila.
But they said they would not want the case to go there because of what they have perceived to be the bias of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim for the Pestaño family. They recalled that on the day after the murder charges were filed, Lim called for a press conference and said he has been a supporter of the Pestaño family and had provided a lawyer for them.
This has prompted them to believe they would not get a fair and impartial trial in the Manila RTC.
7:09 pm | Wednesday, February 15th, 2012


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