CA okays trial of 5 fratmen in 2014 LaSalle stude hazing death case
The Court of Appeals voided a ruling by the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissing the case against five members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity indicted over the hazing death of of College of Saint Benilde student Guillo Cesar Servando last June 2014.
In a 25-page ruling, the CA nullified the orders issued by Judge Honorio Guanlao Branch 57 on December 22, 2015 and February 19, 2016 dismissing the complaint for violation of Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law filed against the respondents and denying the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration.
With this, the CA ordered the Makati RTC to proceed with the trial of the criminal case filed against the respondents – Daniel Paul Martin Bautista, Vic Angelo Dy, Michael David Castaneda, Francisco Joel Villegas, and Justin Francis Reyes.
Servando, a culinary arts student of the De La Salle-College of St Benilde, died in July 2014 during the initiation rites of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity held at One Archer’s Place Condominium in Makati.
The National Bureau of Investigation filed a complaint for violation of R.A. 8049 against 20 Tau Gamma fraternity members, including the respondents.
But the RTC junked the case citing the respondents right to speedy trial under the Speedy Trial Act of 1998 and the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court for decongesting holding jails by enforcing the rights of accused persons to bail and speedy trial.
The appellate court held that Judge Guanlao hastily dismissed the case after the prosecution failed to present its witnesses on the dates provided by the court during the pre-trial stage of the case.
“While courts recognize the accused’s right to speedy trial and adheres to a policy of speedy administration of justice, the State may not be deprived of a reasonable opportunity to fairly prosecute criminals,” the CA said in its ruling.
“The Supreme Court has invariably held that delay per se does not offend one’s right to speedy trial. It is the unjustified delay which does,” it added.