The City Prosecutor's Office has dismissed for insufficiency of evidence to establish probable cause the complaint for multiple frustrated murder and violation of R.A. 9516, the law on firearms and explosives, filed by Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan against former congressman Munir Arbison, two former Sulu mayors and four other persons in connection with the August 5 bomb explosion at the Zamboanga City International Airport.
In a nine page resolution issued on Oct. 22, 2010, the panel of prosecutors that looked into Gov. Tan's complaint, said the complainant failed to establish probable cause that conspiracy existed "for which reason this complaint must be dismissed."
The panel of prosecutors composed of City Prosecutor Ricardo G. Cabaron (chairman) and Bienvenido P. Orillo and Arnel E. Maravilla (members), citing the case -- People vs. Cruz, 191 SCRA377 -- said that conspiracy, like any other ingredient of an offense, must be proved sufficiently as the crime itself, through clear and convincing evidence, not mere conjectures.
It will be recalled that a task force that was created by the police immediately after the August 5 airport blast forwarded a letter to the City Prosecutor's Office on August 17 recommending criminal charges against two persons identified as Addong Salahuddin. Allan Sabuddin and other unidentified companions.
A preliminary investigation was subsequently conducted by the prosecutor's office which resulted to the finding of probable cause against Salahuddin, et al.
As the task force investigation progressed, four witnesses surfaced, two of whom, executed sworn statements implicating former congressman Arbison, former Maimbung, Sulu mayor Najib Maldisa and former Pangutaran, Sulu mayor Ahmad Nanoh to the bomb explosion. The two other witnesses, in their affidavits, added the names of Hadji Maulana Omar, Abdulmunir Hadjirul, Alganarham Adam and Musimar Alih as allegedly among those involved in the alleged plan to assassinate Gov. Tan.
As result, Arbison, Maldisa, Nanoh, Omar, Adam and Alih were included as respondents in the case earlier filed against Addong Salahuddin. Subpoenas were issued to all of them to answer the charges. They submitted testimonial and documentary evidences denying the charges and assailing the credibility of the four witnesses who claimed that they have participated in conspiring to assassinate Gov. Tan.
The panel of prosecutors said in the nine-page resolution that it is an axiomatic rule that the determination of probable cause, like the conviction of the accused itself, should rest on the strength of complainants evidence and not on the weakness of the defense.
"The onus is on complainant to establish that probable cause for the charged
offense exists," said the panel citing People vs. Macagaling, 237 SCRA 322.
"It baffles the Panel on the serious failure and inability of the witnesses to point and state the exact date in the month of July 2010 when the supposed conspiracy among respondents Najib Maldisa, Ahmad A. Nanoh and Abdulmunir M. Arbison was allegedly hatched in the house of the former at Suterville, this city. Witnesses, Edris Harib
Asia and Ismae! Abdulgafur Hasim executed their respective affidavits on September 1, 2010 or barely two (2) months from the alleged conspiracy. Their memories are still fresh yet they failed to do so which creates doubt as to the credibility of their testimonies as well as to their being witnesses to the conspiracy. There is no clear and convincing
evidence to support that they indeed boarded the boat from Jolo bound for Zamboanga City. Not even a verification and/or certification to that effect or the tickets they have purchased from the shipping line were submitted to support their allegations," observed the prosecution panel.
It said that such inability and failure, nonetheless have caused the respondents to surmise, simple yet logical illustration of the days that comprised the last week of July 2010 so as to support their defense of denial and alibi.
Moreover, such failure to our mind, reduces their uncorroborated testimonies to mere conjectures/suspicions, or accusation which is not synonymous to guilt as held in several cases decided by the Supreme Court, the panel added.
"It is thus obvious that the evidence against said respondents hinges on conjecture/suspicion and is not considered as evidence no matter how strong and reasonable," concludes the panel citing the case "People vs. Abellar, et. al. 346, SCRA
Moreover the panel stated that the testimony of witness, Elarde Sawadjaan implicating
respondents Najib Maldisa, Hadji Maulana Omar, Ahmad A. Nanoh and
Abdulmunir M. Arbison was totally discredited by his subsequent affidavit when he declared that the contents therein are not his story and are not true thus making his overall credibility a suspect.
"Both his affidavits therefore, should and must not be given serious consideration
and probative value. These can not stand as meritorious basis to reach a conclusion and as carefully compared and scrutinized, the Panel can not find any expedient devise to determine which of the two affidavits represents the gospel truth," said the panel.
"While it is true that alibi and denial are weak defenses, the same should not be disregarded. In the case of People vs. Gonzales, 180 SCRA 309, it was held that courts should not at once look with disfavor at the defense of alibi for if taken together in the light of any other evidence on record, it maybe sufficient to acquit the accused," the panel stated in the nine-page resolution.
It added: "The Panel believes, that the defense of the respondents could not be looked upon with disfavor. They have submitted evidence, testimonial and documentary directly controverting the allegations of the witnesses of the complainant. These evidence taken together would be sufficient to clear them from the alleged participation (as conspirators) in the commission of the offense. They have clearly and convincingly supported
their defenses. On the contrary, the evidence presented by the complainant is insufficient to hold the respondents for trial."