By Jason de Asis
BALER, Aurora, July 19 (PNA) –The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Aurora has acquitted an former officer of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Central Luzon and his wife for various major criminal offenses.
In a 28-page decision, Judge Jude Erwin Alaba of Baler RTC Branch 91, dismissed the charges of violation of Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by Republic Act 8294 (illegal possession of firearms) against Delfin Pimentel alias “Medy” and wife Imelda Estrella-Pimentel alias “Sierra” of San Luis town.
The two former NPA rebels were also acquitted from the charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder in connection with the ambush-killing of two soldiers some 15 years ago.
However, Delfin remains detained because he has another pending non-bailable case in another court in this capital town.
Delfin, who also carried the aliases Ka Crispin, Ka Liben and Tanda, was a member of the executive committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA’s Central Luzon Regional Committee (CLRC) and has been the secretary of the rebel group’s Aurora Provincial Committee since 2002.
He has been detained at the provincial jail here following his arrest and that of his wife in September 2009 in Dingalan town based on two separate warrants issued by the Baler RTC for murder, multiple murder, and multiple frustrated murder.
Two M-16 rifles, a shotgun and three hand grenades were seized from Delfin.
At the time of his arrest by elements of the Philippine National Police, Delfin was listed as the PNP’s “most wanted man” with a Php2.6-million bounty on his head.
It could be recalled that on February 9, 2000, a group of armed men, allegedly led by Delfin fired from the mountain top a civilian vehicle loaded with soldiers and civilian passengers while passing through the Sierra Madre mountains range in Barangay Diteki, San Luis.
Killed were Private First Class (Pfc) Mario Dasalla, Pfc. Julio Angeles and Pfc. Alexander Castañeda.
Those wounded were Corporal Benigno Martin and civilians Belmor Baldebarona and Charden Baldebarona.
The two rebels were acquitted of the charges after the court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt when one of its witnesses, Belmor Baldeberona admitted he did not see Pimentel at the time of the ambush and disowned his affidavit wherein the accused supposedly introduced himself to the survivors.
Another witness admitted not seeing the gunmen who fired at them, hinting only that Pimentel was one of them because he was then the highest commander of the NPA in the province.
In the gun charges, the prosecution presented as witness SPO1 John Estrada Jr. while the defense presented the couple as witness.
Estrada, in his testimony pointed to the two accused as holding guns.
Later, however, he admitted not seeing them in actual possession of the guns but it was related to him by another companion, PO2 Albert Tangonan.
Delfin, in his testimony, said Estrada was not part of the police team that arrested him.
In dismissing the gun charges, the court gave weight to the contention of the defense that there were several lapses in the testimony of Estrada, who admitted that he was not the one who saw Delfin holding a gun but Tangonan.
It said Estrada had no personal knowledge of the possession but only elicited information from Tangonan.
It also pointed out that Estrada mistakenly pointed to the gun being possessed by Imelda as the one held by Delfin and vice versa.
The court further said it is not “morally certain” of the guilt of the accused, citing that Estrada’s testimony “leaves much to be desired and quite inconsistent with the experience of mankind and thus, of diminished value.”(PNA)