CA backs conviction of 2 Indonesians in 2003 Awang Airport blast
The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court that found two Indonesian terrorists guilty for the bombing of the Awang Airport in Barangay (village) Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao in 2003 that killed one person and injured several others.
In a 23-page decision, the appeals court’s former special 16th division, through Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob said there is no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in convicting Zulkifli/Julkifli alias Donis/Doni, Ofracio/Ahmad Faisal and Taufiq Rifqi, members of the notorious Rajah Solaiman Movement.
They were all meted out the penalty of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment.
“The Court finds no compelling ground to disturb the factual findings of the RTC. As hereinbefore pronounced, the rule is well-settled that factual findings of the trial court regarding the credibility of witnesses are accorded great weight and utmost respect given that trial courts have firsthand observation of the witnesses’ demeanor while testifying in court,” the appeals court said.
On April 28, 2016, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision convicting all the accused.
However, in a resolution dated June 1, 2016, it modified its ruling, saying the April 28 ruling pertains only to co-accused Feliciano de los Reyes alias Box and Dinno Amor Pareja alias Khaleel.
In its June 2016 ruling, the CA said the two Indonesians were not given adequate time to engage a new lawyer while their appeal is pending with the appellate court.
The CA’s latest ruling dated March 30, 2017 denied the claim of Zulkifli and Rifqi that their arrest violated their constitutional rights .
“The Court is not persuaded that there exist irregularities in its issuance, much less in the service thereof,” it noted.
The CA also did not give weight to the “defenses of denial and alibi” offered by the two accused in light of the positive identification of the witnesses.
“It is axiomatic that positive testimony prevails when juxtaposed with negative testimony. Appellants’ alibis that they were at different places on February 20, 2003 are negative and self-serving and cannot be given more evidentiary value vis-à-vis the affirmative testimony of credible witnesses,” the decision pointed out.
The case stemmed from the bombing of the Awang Airport on February 20, 2003 where Sgt. Nelson Corpuz was killed while several others were injured.
Based on the investigation conducted by authorities, the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device that was placed in a white Suzuki multicab, which was parked outside a restaurant across the entrance gate of the airport.
The CA held that the trial court did not err in holding that the crime was aggravated by treachery and premeditation.
The appellate court also increased the moral damages that the accused should pay to the heirs of Corpuz to P75,000 from P50,000 and other victims. IDL/rga
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