Ex-judge cleared in slay of Vizcaya lawyer

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BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: A retired regional trial court (RTC) judge was finally cleared by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the killing of a human rights lawyer here three years ago.

Also a former law school dean, Jose Rosales was linked by a self-confessed gunman in the 2010 killing of topnotch lawyer Ernesto Salunat.

Emerson Turingan, provincial prosecutor, dismissed the murder case filed by the police against Rosales.

In his three-page resolution dated July 31, 2013, Turingan dismissed the murder case “for lack of probable cause” to charge him.

Earlier, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in its findings has also recommended the dismissal of the case against the retired judge “for lack of sufficient basis” describing Rosales’ indictment in the case as “unsubstantiated and unreliable.”

In September 2012, a murder case was filed by the local police against Rosales based on the confession of murder convict Rommel Laciste, who was recaptured in Isabela 11 days after he escaped from the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Before Laciste’s turnover to the national penitentiary, he admitted in an affidavit with the aid of a lawyer that he was the one who shot Salunat.

Salunat was shot four times in front of the municipal trial court in Solano town when he was about to ride his BMW car around 9 a.m. on June 22, 2010.

Laciste, 30, claimed in his confession that he had been hired to kill Salunat while he was confined at the Isabela provincial jail for the 2006 killing of Concepcion Lumanglas, then assistant provincial probation officer.

He claimed that one of the provincial guards, whom he identified as Jude Celestino, freed him and gave the firearm for the Salunat job.

Laciste, who hails from San Mariano, Isabela, further claimed in said affidavit that he had been set loose by a provincial jail guard to kill the 64-year-old Salunat.

The NBI said Laciste’s latest affidavit dated March 26, 2013 taken inside the national penitentiary did not mention the name of Rosales in his confession before the local police on August 27, 2012.

The NBI also noted discrepancies in Laciste’s police-extracted affidavit that he saw Rosales as the presiding judge during his trial of another case on December 5, 2006 and in January 2007 when the former judge has already retired from the service.

The DOJ ordered the other three respondents in the case—Laciste, Valentin and Celestine—to file their respective counter-affidavits over their implication in the killing.

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