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Saturday, April 13, 2024

DOJ: Missing sabungeros case ‘cannot be settled out of court’

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The Department of Justice on Monday vowed to pursue the cases involving the missing “sabungeros” or cockfighting enthusiasts, saying it will exhaust all possible legal remedies to get justice for them.

“We will not stop. We will try to obtain justice. This matter cannot be settled out of court. The state has taken interest in this mass murder of people,” Remulla said, in an interview with reporters.

“We consider it a mass murder because of these missing people, we should actually look at them as we don’t need to wait for seven years under the Civil Code. We might as well consider them as gone unless there really has a hope to cling on (to) that there are sightings of these people,” he added.

Remulla said the DOJ will do everything that is legally possible to reverse the decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC), allowing six accused in the case—Julie Patidongan, Gleer Codilla, Mark Carlo Zabala, Virgilio Bayog, Johnny Consolacion, and Roberto Matillano, Jr.—to post bail.

“We will exhaust all possible legal remedies. We will go to a higher court on this matter because we believe that the court may have misapprehended the gravity of the situation for these missing sabungeros for a long time,” Remulla said.

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“Even for the fact that they hid from the law already shows that they should not have been granted bail. Since if they tried to evade our legal system and then they were granted bail, that speaks very poorly of our legal system,” he added.

The six were granted bail amounting to P3 million each last Dec. 15 by Branch 40 Manila RTC Presiding Judge Rebecca Guillen-Ubana.

The suspects were charged in January 2023 in connection with the disappearance of Marlon Baccay, James Baccay, Mark Joseph Velasco, Claude Inonog, Rowel Gomez and Rondel Cristorum in 2022.

The DOJ in a resolution released in December 2022 found that the six conspired with each other in the disappearance of the victims on Jan. 13, 2022.

Authorities said at least 34 sabungeros were reported missing or disappeared since 2021.

Remulla said the Witness Protection Program still has in its care the witness against the suspects. “That’s why we cannot give up on this,” he noted.

“The fact that they (suspects) evaded the legal system only to be caught later on shows that there was already an iota of guilt involved in these people. They didn’t face the charges against them and then when they were arrested, they would say they are innocent,” Remulla said.

The DOJ in December 2022 also indicted three Laguna cops—staff Sgt. Daryl Paghangaan and Patrolmen Roy Navarete and Rigel Brosas—for robbery and kidnapping of e-sabungero agent Ricardo Lasco.

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