Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Permanent Case in the Political History of Occ Mindoro

This blog is not only for current discussion; the blogger intends that serves the purpose of future generations' curious glance at political history of Occidental Mindoro. There is one case that is -- anyone may bet on this -- going to be of permanent influence to the future of politicking in the province. In narrating this event, let me take from MST Online's First Crack by Mr. Fel V. Maragay. He had his e-column, A Courageous Verdict, on March 9, 2006. Below is a faithful reproduction of it:


"WE take our hat off to Judge Ma. Theresa Yadao of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court-Branch 81 for finally rendering the verdict on the murder of the Quintos brothers more than eight years after it took place in Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental. Her courageous feat in resolving the sensational case in the face of pressures from the powers-that-be and threats of harm by communist insurgents vividly illustrate that our judiciary is not lacking in men and women in robes who can be relied upon to dispense equal justice and punish those who have run afoul of the law without fear or favor from anyone.

"In her decision on March 1, (2006) Judge Yadao meted out the death sentence to former Rep. Jose Villarosa, and six farmers for the twin murder of Michael and Paul Quintos, sons of former congressman and 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate Ricardo Quintos, arch-political rival of Villarosa.

"The decision was deemed earth-shaking enough to merit banner headline treatment in a leading national daily and some tabloids in Metro Manila.

"It came as a shock to Villarosa and his wife, incumbent Mindoro Occidental Rep. Amelita Villarosa, who had both expected an acquittal. “Unfair, the judgment is unfair,” muttered an angry Villarosa as he walked out of the courtroom, handcuffed and escorted by jail guards.
On the other hand, the elder Quintos and other members of his family, never lost any hope of seeing the case decided in their favor. They believed they and their lawyers had gathered more than enough evidence to build an airtight case and nail down the perpetrators of the gruesome crime.

"In the 86-page decision, Judge Yadao said she found sufficient evidence that Villarosa and his coaccused conspired to kill the Quintos brothers.

"Also sentenced to die by execution were Josue Ungsod, Manolito Matricio, Mario Tobias, Ruben Balaguer and Gelito Bautista, the so-called “Mamburao Six” who were alleged members of the New People’s Army.

"Michael, a barangay chairman, and Paul were attending a birthday party in a neighbor’s house in Mamburao on Dec. 13, 1997 when five armed men barged into the premises and shot the brothers in cold blood. The killings hogged the newspaper headlines for weeks.

"Villarosa and other suspects were arrested by the police on the strength of the testimony of Eduardo Hermoso who served as one of the lookouts. Hermoso fell under the hands of the police two weeks after the murder. He also pinpointed Villarosa as the mastermind of the murder where seven gunmen and the congressman’s driver and police escort were supposedly involved.

"In February 1998, the double murder case was transferred from Mamburao to the Quezon City RTC upon the order of the Supreme Court in response to the petition of the complainants. The case suffered a setback when Quezon City RTC-Branch 76 Judge Monina Zenarosa, on April 28, 1998, granted bail to Villarosa, Bautista and Balaguer although murder is a nonbailable offense.
The case suffered another blow in October 2001 when the remaining suspects were almost freed from prison. Upon recommendation of the Department of Justice, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved the release on recognizance of the Mamburao Six as part of the government’s confidence-building measures to help restart the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front. But the motion to free the suspects was denied by Yadao.

"The elder Quintos was convinced that Villarosa, a retired military colonel was behind the killing of his sons. The crime was traced to the bitter feud over the 600-hectare Golden Country Farms owned by the Quintos family and managed by Michael. Farmers, many of whom were squatting on the vast farm, wanted it parceled under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), but the Quintoses resisted it.

"Two years before the killing, Villarosa confronted Quintos and told him the squatting problem at the Golden Country Farms could be solved easily. According to Quintos, Villarosa imposed a stiff price: his family would have to give up half of the farm. So incensed was Quintos that he walked out of the meeting.

"At the time of the killing, Villarosa was congressman of the province. In the May 2001 elections, Quintos and Villarosa fought in the gubernatorial contest. Villarosa was proclaimed winner by the Commission on Elections despite the alleged strong proof of fraud. Quintos, who lost the election by a mere 1,000 votes, filed an electoral protest. In the May 2004 elections, Amelita Villarosa won as congressman but her husband was defeated by Josefina Sato in the gubernatorial race. It is said that Rep. Villarosa, who is a member of the ruling Lakas party and a staunch ally of President Arroyo, exhausted all means, using the political clout of her office, to influence the outcome of the case and get her husband off the hook.

"In the face of pressures and harassment to which she was subjected to in handling the twin murder case, Judge Yadao refused to be intimidated, making it clear to all that she would decide on the case purely on its merits and the evidence on hand.

"A judicial official of lesser stuff would have easily thrown in the towel in the face of the forces trying to influence her handling of the celebrated case. In fact, three other RTC judges inhibited from the case one by one for perplexing reasons. Following a motion from the prosecution, Judge Monina Zenarosa inhibited herself from the case in September 1998. It was reraffled in two other Quezon City RTC branches but the judges also inhibited themselves. The case was again reraffled to the sala of Judge Yadao, who proved herself to have the balls to preside over the prosecution of the case down to its logical end.

"The exemplary deeds of Judge Yadao in resolving the case regardless of who gets hurt stands out in stark contrast to the shameful behavior of another judge in Tacurong City who dismissed the murder charges against the suspected masterminds and the triggermen in the assassination of antigraft crusader and community journalist Marlene Esperat despite the fact that the killers had confessed to their crime and squealed on the persons who paid them off for the hastly crime.
"Yadao’s admirable feat should also put to shame the top honchos in the Office of the Ombudsman who keep on sitting on the plunder charges against the commissioners of the Commission on Elections involved in the anomalous P1.3 billion election automation contract.


For posterity's sake, yes it is. Banking on what may be learned from this line: we are doomed to repeat history should we fail to learn from it.

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