Eight Navy officers accused in the 1995 killing of Ensign Philip Pestaño entred a “not guilty” plea before a Manila court on Thursday.
The Navy officers are Commander Reynaldo Lopez, Commander Luidegar Casis, Commander Alfrederick Alba, Lt. Commander Joselito Colico, Lt. Commander Ricardo Ordonez (retired), Hospital Man First Class Welmenio Aquino, Machinery Repair First Class Sandy Miranda and Petty Officer 2 Mil Leonor (retired).
The eight accused, who are at present under the custody of the Philippine Navy, appeared before Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 6 Judge Jansen Rodriguez accompanied by their lawyers Jay de Guzman and Ana Luz Cristal.
Also in attendance were the parents of Pestaño and their lawyers, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Eirene Aguila.
The next hearings are on October 27, November 13 and November 20 to decide on a petition for bail by the accused.
Two of the accused, Lt. Commander Ruben Roque and Petty Officer First Class Carlito Amoroso, are at-large.
Roque, it was learned, had left the country even before the case was filed, while Amoroso, although at-large, was included in the petition for bail.
Pestaño was found dead with a gunshot wound in the head in September 1995 on board the Philippine Navy cargo ship BRP Bacolod.
Early reports said he had committed suicide.
The Pestano family, however, believed he was murdered after he discovered some irregularities in the ship, which was carrying illegal logs.