By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed the complaint against lawyer Katherine Panguban of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) who has been accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old boy tagged by police as the key witness in the 2018 Sagay City massacre.
Assistant State Prosecutor Ferdinand Fernandez, who was assigned to handle the case, dismissed the complaint filed by the estranged father, Victor Cabahug, after having talked to the boy “Lester” and his mother “Lorna” during the conduct of the preliminary investigation.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the complaint, against respondent Atty. Katherine Panguban for violation of Article 256 of the Revised Penal Code (Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention) in relation to R.A. No. 7610 is dismissed for lack of probable cause,” read the four-page resolution of Fernandez dated dated June 17.
During the preliminary investigation, Fernandez recounted he asked the boy and his mother “if they were forced by respondent (Panguban) to be in her custody and they were were deprived of liberty.”
“Both of them responded that it was their free will to voluntarily submit their custody to respondent,” the resolution cited.
“With this statement the elements of kidnapping and serious illegal detention allegedly committed by respondent negated complainant’s statement in his complaint,” Fernandez ruled.
The boy has been identified by the Sagay City Police as the witness in the October 20, 2018 killing of nine members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) inside Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
After being taken into custody by police, the boy was brought to the Sagay City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD).
The mother, who had been working in Manila, returned to Sagay City during that time to take custody of her son from the CSWD with the help of Panguban.
“This is evidenced by pictures of the actual turnover and a document entitled Turn Over Agreement dated October 25, 2018,” noted Fernandez.
The prosecutor added that “the minor victim was made to choose who to go with and he chose to stay with his mother…”
NUPL previously stated that the farther had been used by police to get back the custody of the boy.
Panguban had earlier said the boy was taken into police custody and made to sign a sworn statement concerning the massacre without the presence of a lawyer and without the consent of his guardians or parents.
She also insisted that the boy did not see the faces of the suspects and could not be used as a witness.