By Rey Panaligan
Instead of only a maximum of 40 years in prison or reclusion perpetua, the Court of Appeals (CA) has upgraded the penalty imposed on the former vice mayor of Dasmarinas, Cavite and three of his cohorts in the kidnap-for-ransom and murder of a businessman and his driver in 2008.
In a decision written by associate Justice Elihu A. Ybanez, the CA ruled that those convicted by the Pasay City regional trial court (RTC) in 2016 are not eligible for parole.
“Appellants Exequiel Cautiver y Magpale, Victor Carungcong, Alejandrito Entrolizo y Vilar, and Mariano De Leon Jr. a.k.a “Spider” are each found GUILTY of two counts of the special complex crime of kidnapping for ransom with murder and are sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole, for each count,” the CA said.
Caruncong was the former vice mayor of Dasmarinas town in Cavite, while Cautiver was a former commanding officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) in Fort Sto. Domingo in Laguna.
The CA said those convicted should have been sentenced to death had the death penalty not been deleted in the statute books under Republic Act No. 9346, known as “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines.”
In its decision, the CA acquitted Cautiver’s wife Major Penelope Cautiver, and ordered the chief of the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City to release her from custody unless she is being held for some other lawful cause.
“We find appellant Penelope’s participation in the crime not adequately proved with moral certainty. There was no evidence that she had conspired with the malefactors, nor that she actually participated in the commission of the crime,” the CA said.
The Pasay City RTC had found them guilty of kidnapping Demosthenese Canete, a businessman and a retired pilot of the Philippine Airlines, and his driver Allan Garay.
Case records showed that those charged demanded P20 million for the release of their hostages. However, despite the payment of about P1 million in ransom, Canete and Garay were killed.
Canete’s body was found in Porac, Pampanga, while that of Garay’s was recovered in Valenzuela.
Aside from increasing the penalty, the CA also ordered:
“Appellants Exequiel Cautiver y Magpale, Victor Carungcong, Alejandrito Entrolizo y Vilar, and Mariano De Leon Jr. a.k.a “Spider” are ordered, jointly and severally, to pay the heirs of Demosthenes Cañete the sum of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, in addition to the P425,670.57 actual damages imposed by the trial court as reimbursement for the burial expenses incurred for Demosthenes;
“Appellants Exequiel Cautiver y Magpale, Victor Carungcong, Alejandrito Entrolizo y Vilar, and Mariano De Leon Jr. a.k.a “Spider” are ordered, jointly and severally to pay the heirs of Allan Garay the sum of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages;
“All the monetary awards shall earn an interest at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of the Court’s Decision until fully paid.”
The CA decision promulgated last January 21, also stated:
“The entire records and proven facts of the case yield the inescapable conclusion that the prosecution’s evidence, albeit circumstantial, is of a sufficient quantum to establish the guilt of appellants Exequiel, Mariano, Victor, and Alejandrito in the commission of the crime.
“Their community of criminal design can be inferred from the planning stage, as well as the actual execution of their clearly designated roles, to wit: the mastermind of the crime is Victor; the ransom taker is Alejandrito; and the ones who gave the instructions and coordinated with the other accused are Exequiel and Mariano.
“Evidently, each had their respective roles in their elaborate plan to carry out the crime. All their actions were complimentary to each other and geared towards the attainment of a common objective, which is to extort money from the victims’ family in exchange for their freedom, and to kill them in the course of their detention.”