DOJ scores conviction of 4 accused in murder of grocery owner

March 31, 2014 9:24 am 

MANILA, March 30 — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has scored the conviction of four accused for the murder of Gil Manlapaz, owner of Manlapaz Grocery located at Pedro Gil, Sta. Ana, Manila.

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 173 meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law against accused Raymond S. Mercado, Dennis Frederick M. Lelis, Jose P. Reblora and Anita Buce.

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima commended Assistant State Prosecutors Mari Elvira Herrera, Hjalmar Quintana and Hazel C. Decena-Valdez for successfully prosecuting the case.

Investigation showed that on June 29, 2006, Manlapaz was gunned down in front of his store in Sta. Ana, Manila by a trigger man who immediately walked away from the scene joined by two other men.

The victim was rushed to the hospital and on July 2, 2006, Manlapaz passed away.

Lelis was arrested for an alleged crime of attempted robbery and frustrated murder on Sept. 23, 2006.

While detained, he executed a sworn statement saying that he and Mercado were contacted and contracted by a certain "Toto" later known as George C. Duazon for their services to liquidate for a fee Mrs. Josephine Manlapaz, owner of Manlapaz Grocery.

However, at the time of her supposed execution, only Gil Manlapaz was available as a target so they called up Duazo who instructed them to shot down any member of the Manlapaz family.

Duazo was arrested on Dec. 27, 2008 and in May 2009, signed an extra-judicial confession admitting his participation to the crime as middleman who recruited and hired killers to accomplish the task and implicated Buce as the mastermind in the killing of Josephine's husband.

Duazo was later discharged as an accused and was made a state witness.

The RTC noted that Duazo's testimony that accused Buce was the one who gave the contract money for the killing of Gil Manlapaz and apparently was also the one giving him instructions clearly demonstrates the commonality of purpose of the acts of accused Buce together with the other three accused.

"Such acts have the common design or purpose in the felony of money-for-hire killing that has been committed," the RTC said.

It found prosecution's evidence more than ample to establish with moral certainty the guilt of the accused Lelis, Mercado and Reblora of the crime of murder.

The RTC also found that the victim was shot at the back twice, the attack was complete surprise and unprovoked, sudden and unexpected, giving the unarmed victim no chance whatsoever to defend himself.

It also noted that the accused deliberately and consciously adopted methods, means and form of execution employed by them without any risk on their part or any retaliation from the victim.

"Similarly, the clear showing that the facts or circumstances of weight or substance demonstrate that conspiracy was present among and between Anita Buce, Raymond Mercado, Dennis Frederick M. Lelis, and Jose P. Reblora," the RTC decision said. (PNA)



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