Supreme Court suspends Laoang prosecutor

The Supreme Court has suspended a prosecutor in Northern Samar who was found liable for gross misconduct after he downgraded the charges against four suspected New People’s Army rebels involved in a robbery-homicide case.

In a 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, the SC's Second Division partly modified the penalty for Laoang, Northern Samar prosecutor Jesus Clarito Espina from dismissal slapped by the Department of Justice to a mere six-month for gross misconduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

But since Espina had already retired, the high court just fined him the amount equivalent to his salary for six months.

The penalty for gross misconduct entails a six-month suspension for the first offense, and dismissal from service for the second.

The SC considered as a mitigating circumstance the fact that this was Espina's first offense in his 33 years of service.

"The record does not show that any of the additional elements to qualify the charge of conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service to grave misconduct had been established," the Court ruled.

The high court noted the resolution of the Office of the President affirming Espina's offense, stating that "respondent has no business being a prosecutor if he will merely act as a puppet for unscrupulous judges."

It said that the filing of motion to dismiss and the subsequent granting of the motion by the Court enabled the suspects to go scot-free.

Based on court records, Espina entered criminal case no. 1276 for robbery in band with multiple homicide against four accused NPA members before branch 22 of Lao-ang, Northern Samar regional trial court in the sala of Judge Mateo Leanda. The accused were then convicted by the court and were imposed the death penalty.

On automatic review of the case, the SC affirmed the conviction but commuted the penalty to reclusion perpetua in 1987.

On June 14, 1993 petitioner Espina, then a prosecutor of Lao-ang, filed a motion to dismiss the criminal case on the ground that the anti-subversion law had been repealed. The trial court subsequently granted the motion to dismiss, and eventually dismissed the case.

Respondents namely Miguel Cerujano, Alfredo Tingkingco and Senencio Cerujano Jr. then filed an administrative complaint for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against Espina before the DOJ.

They alleged that the grounds relied upon by Espina have nothing to do with the case at all, as the case decided with finality by the court is Robbery in Band with Multiple Homicide and not a violation of the anti-subversion law as advanced in the motion to dismiss. - GMANews.TV

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