31 days later, arrest warrants vs masterminds behind Esperat slay still unserved

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 March)  – It’s been 31 days since

the judge issued the warrant of arrest against the two alleged

masterminds in the March 2005 killing of  Tacurong City columnist

Marlene Esperat but police units in Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao)

have yet to receive a copy of the arrest warrants.


Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, said

this morning that his office has not yet received any arrest warrant

against suspects Osmena Montaner and Estrella Sabay, finance officer

and regional accountant of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in

Region 12.


“I have no idea about that. Until now, I haven’t received any notice

or copy of that warrant of arrest,” Kiunisala told MindaNews in a

telephone interview.


He said the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office 12, which

is based in this city, could have dispatched a copy of the arrest

warrants to them the moment it was received by the regional office.


Lawyer Nena Santos, counsel for the Esperat family, earlier said the

two suspects were last seen at the DA regional office on February 2.

Santos clarified to MindaNews that the two were reporting to the DA

office in Cotabato City, not the regional DA in Koronadal City, until

February 2, two days before the arrest warrants were issued in Cebu.


Esperat, a DA chemist who turned whistleblower on corrupt practices in

the regional office, was gunned down on March 24, 2005, a Maundy

Thursday, while she was having dinner with her two young sons at their

residence in Tacurong City.


Esperat wrote “Madame Witness,” a column for a local weekly, Midland Review.


During her employment in the DA regional office from 1987 to 2004, she

discovered several cases of graft and corrupt practices involving

misuse of public funds intended for use of marginalized farmers.


She accused Montaner and Sabay of alleged corrupt practices. The two

were identified as masterminds in the Esperat killing by ex-military

intelligence agent Rowie Barua, who helped plan the assassination but

later turned state witness.


Through Barua’s testimony, the three other hired killers, Randy

Grecia, Gerry Cabayag and Estanislao Bismanos, were convicted by Cebu

City RTC Judge Eric Menchavez on October 6, 2006.


On February 4 this year, Cebu City RTC Branch 21 Judge Simeon Dumdum

issued the warrants of arrest against the suspects, to the police in

Cotabato City where the suspects reside.


Santos said the arrest warrants were immediately sent by the Cebu

court to the PNP regional offices in Region 12 and the Autonomous

Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).


ARMM police director Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao last Friday told

MindaNews they had not received copies of the warrant. Goltiao later

said the copies reached them only last Monday.


ARMM deputy police chief, Supt. Danilo Bacas told MindaNews this

morning that the Regional Investigation and Detective Management

Division (RIDMD) received from the Cotabato City police station last

Monday a photocopy of the arrest warrant and that the RIDMD has

directed the police chief in Malabang, Lanao del Sur and the 1505th

Provincial Mobile Group there to serve the warrant. Montaner, he said,

has relatives in Malabang and used to have a residence there.


Cotabato City, where the two suspects reside, is the temporary seat of

the ARMM but is not a component city and actually belongs to Region


(Allen V. Estabillo and Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)


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