Murder raps vs. actress, lawyer, cops dismissed

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Murder and frustrated murder charges filed against four police officers, an actress-businesswoman and a lawyer were dismissed by Negros Occidental Regional Trial Court Judge Eduardo Sayson for insufficiency of accusatory evidence.

Acquitted for charges filed against them by Atty. Erfe del Castillo, an assistant provincial prosecutor of Negros Occidental, were P/Supt. Richie Yatar, Police Inspector James Adrian Albaytar, PO3 Ronald Ortiz, SPO2 Joshua Barile, movie actress-businesswoman Catherine Berioso-Cabuga, also known as Kate Brios, Atty. Jomax Ortiz, and a John Doe.

Del Castillo linked the respondents to the Dec. 21, 2018 ambush at the Bacolod-Silay Airport Access Road in Brgy. Matab-ang, Talisay City, Negros Occidental that killed her fiancée, former policeman Efren Palmares Jr., and left her wounded.

In his Oct. 16, 2020 decision, Judge Sayson dismissed the criminal complaints, stating that “the evidence at hand proffered by lone witness Atty. Erfe del Castillo is obviously insufficient for the undersigned to come up with the required findings of probable cause to issue warrant of arrest”.

The judge also noted that “the incident, at first, was only an offshoot of the Metro Inn Hotel stand-off on Nov. 19 to 21, 2018, and later the ambush appeared to be triggered by a more complicated and serious crimes involving drugs, gambling and illegal possession of explosives.”

“To further complicate matters, also dragged into the mix was the alleged rift  between Governor Marañon and high ranking PNP officers and the prominent personality from the south that resulted into simmering conflict between PNP hierarchy and the local NBI (National Bureau of Investigation).” Sayson said.

The judge also noted that the version of del Castillo of the incident was incomplete and the failure of the prosecution to submit the report of SOCO (Scene Of the Crime Operatives), including the sketch of the vicinity, final report of PNP Special Investigation Team and sworn statement of witness/es, prompting him to remand the cases to Talisay City Prosecutor’s Office, without prejudice to the refiling.

“Considering insufficiency of accusatory evidence that would approximate the findings of probable cause to issue warrant of arrest, the above entitled cases are hereby deemed dismissed,” the judge said. GPB