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SC junks soldier’s habeas corpus plea in kidnap of 2 UP students

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The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the dismissal of a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus filed by one of the accused soldiers in the abduction and disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.

In a 17-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the SC’s third division affirmed the Court of Appeals (CA) rulings dated July 27, 2015 and February 22, 2016 denying the plea of Army SSgt. Edgar Osorio for the issuance of the writ for lack of merit.

“All told, the arrest warrants issued against Staff Sgt.Osorio were issued by the court that has jurisdiction over the offense charged. SSgt. Osorio’s restraint has become legal hence, the remedy of habeas corpus is already moot and academic,” read the resolution dated April 23.

“Republic Act 7055 (An Act Strengthening Civilian Supremacy Over the Military) provides that if the accused is a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the crime involved is one punished under the Revised Penal Code, civil courts shall have authority to hear, try and decide, the case,’ stated the ruling concurred by Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Alexander Gesmundo, Samuel Martirez and Presbitero Velasco.

The decision affirmed that the Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) properly took cognizance of the kidnapping case against him.

It explained that the only time a court martial may assume jurisdiction is, if before arraignment, the civil court determines that the offense is “service-oriented”.

Furthermore, the high court said since Osorio was charged with a crime committed in a private capacity, the Sandiganbayan could not take cognizance of the case.

Osorio said the Malolos RTC which issued the warrant against him has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case and that only a court martial, not civil courts, have jurisdiction to try and decide a case against a soldier on active duty.

Osorio stressed that the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan should have conducted the preliminary investigation and decided the kidnapping case against him since his co-accused, then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, had a rank higher than colonel and had a salary grade 28 at the time of the commission of the alleged offense.

Aside from Osorio and Palparan, also charged over the disappearance of Empeno and Cadapan are Lt. Colonel Felipe Anotado and Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario.

Hilario remains at large. (PNA)