TACLOBAN CITY – The private prosecutor handling the case against nine former police officers allegedly involved in the killing of former Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino expressed outrage after a Samar judge ordered the release of the suspects on Friday.

Attorney Alma Uy-Lampasa, lawyer of the Aquino family, said the order to release the suspects is “high-irregular” since it came from a judge who is privy to the case.

RTC Judge Janet Cabalona, presiding judge of Branch 33 in Calbiga, Samar, ordered the release of dismissed Lieutenant Colonel Harry Sucayre, Major Shyrille Tan, Captain Dino Goles, Lieutenant Julio Armeza, Jr., Staff Sergeant Neil Cebu, Staff Sergeant Edsel Omega, Staff Sergeant Randy Merelos, Corporal Julius Garcia, and Patrolman Niño Salem.

Corporal Alexander Demillo, desk officer at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) lock-up facility, said the nine suspects were released at around 4:00 in the afternoon on Friday to their respective families and lawyers.

The nine former police men are facing four cases of murder and one frustrated murder for killing Aquino, his police security aide Master Sergeant Rodeo Sario, his driver Dennis Abayon and bystander Clint John Paul Yauder and injuring another bodyguard of Aquino.

Cabalona, in her release order dated March 17, 2023, said the suspects have posted the necessary bail bond for their provisional liberty.

Judge Maricar Lucero, presiding judge of RTC Branch 31, had earlier issued an order on March 7, 2023 to allow all the nine suspects to post a bail of PHP 120,000 each for each of the cases filed against them. Lucero has inhibited herself from the case citing online threats and slander against her and her family after she allowed the suspects to post bail bonds.

Lampasa said she was shocked to learn that the suspects were released on bail by a judge who is not privy to the case.

“It was a shock for the private complainants that Judge Janet Cabalona has ordered the release of the accused, though she is not the judge of the cases and there is a pending motion for reconsideration,” Lampasa said in a statement sent to the media.

Lampasa said they have not received a copy of the court order and only learned about it from the media.

“I cannot believe that she would do such a highly irregular act – releasing the accused from detention. She is, in effect, preempting the action of the judge which the Supreme Court will designate, to replace judge Maricar Lucero,” she stated. Lampasa said she is still studying other legal remedies for her next course of action. “We shall continue to have faith in the judicial system of the country,” she added. By Elmer Recuerdo (EV Mail March 13-19, 2023 issue)