Secretary De Lima lauds conviction of accused for kidnapping for ransom with homicide

10 April 2014

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima hailed the decision of the RTC Quezon City convicting a man accused for the death of a 23-year-old master's degree student in Quezon City.

The RTC-Quezon City Branch 226 sentenced Onofre Surat, Jr. of kidnapping for ransom with homicide imposing him the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua without eligibility for parole and to pay the heirs of Mark Bacalla, Jr. civil, moral and actual damages.

"Let this be a warning to all those who continue to defy our laws, that justice is served to whom it is due." the Secretary said after receipt of the decision of Presiding Judge Manuel B. Sta. Cruz, Jr.

Investigation showed that victim Mark Harris Bacalla on May 02, 2001 arrived around 9:00 pm at the pub owned by accused Surat, Jr. and had a drink with him. Several hours or around 1:00 to 2:00 early morning of May 03, 2001, Mark Harris left the pub and was followed by Surat and one of the other co-accused Jerro Garcia who was then holding a towel and a rope and another, pub doorman Rodrigo Catungal. All boarded the car, an orange Honda Civic with Plate Number ECF-858 with Mark at the driver's seat. While on board, co-accused Jerro Garcia, upon the instruction of Surat strangled Mark from behind, hit the back of his head and stuffed his mouth with a foam filling of a throw pillow. After  sometime, victim was no longer moving and was already dead and, thereafter, brought to Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija where he was buried in a shallow grave.

Subsequently, a demand for ransom was made as a condition for his release amounting to four million pesos  (P4,000,000.00) wherein four hundred forty-two thousand pesos (P442,000.00) was paid on May 8, 2001 and four hundred ninety thousand (P490,000.00) was paid on May 17, 2001 in Quezon City, despite knowledge that victim was already dead.

The foregoing facts show that accused Surat and his group gave rise to a special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with homicide.

The defense of alibi posited by accused Surat that on the night of the kidnapping that he was drunk and slept in his unit located at the same building where his club is located is flimsy and without merit.

"Basic is the rule that for alibi to prosper, the accused must prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed and that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime. Physical impossibility refers to the distance between the place where the accused was when the crime transpired and the place where it was committed as well as the facility of access between the two places," the Court said.

"Where there is the least chance for the accused to be present at the crime scene, the defense of alibi must fail. The accused himself stated that he was at the fourth floor of the same where his pub is located. Thus, it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis at the time of the incident. The categorical statements and positive identification of his co-accused destroy the defense of alibi and renders it impotent," Judge Sta. Cruz stressed in his decision.

The Court also took note that Surat was arrested in June 2001, was able to escape and re-arrested in November 2008. It is well-established that "the flight of an accused is competent evidence to indicate his guilt, and flight when unexplained is a circumstance from which an inference of guilt may be drawn."

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