Monday, August 14, 2006

Court summons reluctant witnesses in Batul’s murder

By Lourdes Escaros-Paet and Robert Bagalay

JUDGE TORIBIO ILAO of Regional Trial Court Branch 52 has ordered two reluctant witnesses in the murder case of radio commentator Fernando “Dong” Batul to give their testimonies in the first hearing of the trial of Aaron Golifardo, one of the suspected gunmen, on Sept. 8.

Both the prosecution and defense panels asked the court to summon Beor Reynoso, the owner of the house closest to the crime scene, and Ding Osia, a former Navy officer who happened to be in the area when the killing took place, to testify in the case. Both men are not witnesses of either camp.

The lawyers of Batul and Golifardo believe that Reynoso knows the killers but for some unknown reason, he has been reluctant in giving information to the authorities.

When reached by Bandillo for comment, Reynoso expressed dismay over the court’s “encroachment on his private life.” He said that he would seek his lawyer’s advice regarding the court order.

“Sana nirespeto nila ang aking pagiging pribadong tao,” he complained.

Although Reynoso admitted that he was at home when Batul was ambushed, his knowledge is limited to hearing the gunfire and finding Batul slumped in the driver’s seat, almost lifeless.

He said he was cooking breakfast in the morning of May 22 when he heard a vehicle crash against the wall across his house on Valencia Street. He went out to check what happened but the burst of gunfire sent him scampering back to the house.

He crouched low in his house until he felt that it was already safe outside. When he came out after about ten minutes, he found Batul fatally wounded inside his multicab.

Reynoso said other people were in the area when the killing took place, and they could provide better information on the case.

He claimed that investigators had already questioned him, but he could not give additional information.

Reynoso also disproved the rumor in his neighborhood that the suspects or their handlers had bribed him to remain silent on the matter. The rumors circulated following the renovation of his dilapidated house a few weeks after the murder, but Reynoso explained that his wife who is working as a nurse in the US sent him the money for repairs.

Meanwhile, Osia admitted having witnessed the ambush when he explained his side to Bandillo. But unlike Reynoso, he expressed willingness to comply with the court order.

He claimed that he had informed the National Bureau of Investigation and Task Force Dong Batul what he knew of the crime.

Osia denied allegations that he was bribed to keep silent, saying some “personalities” in the city have tried bribing him but he turned them down.

Both Reynoso and Osia claim to be supporters of Batul.


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