CA junks expelled INC member's plea in gun raps

By Benjamin Pulta

September 14, 2023, 4:00 pm Updated on September 14, 2023, 10:23 pm

MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed its earlier ruling against individuals charged in connection with the March 2017 raid in a house inside a place of worship's compound in Quezon City which allegedly yielded high powered firearms.

In a two-page resolution promulgated Sept. 11 and written by Associate Justice Jaime Fortunato A. Caringal, the appellate court's former ninth division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Felix Nathaniel "Angel” Manalo II and three others, Victor Hemedez, Jojo Moreno and Jonathan Ledesma.

The accused had sought a reconsideration of the CA's decision issued last Feb. 23.

"After a careful review of petitioners' motion, we find that the instant motion (by the accused) deserves scant consideration. As observed by the Office of the Solicitor General in its comment, the arguments put forward by petitioners have been sufficiently address in our Feb. 23, 2023 decision. All told, the absence of a novel argument raised by accused-appellant, we find no compelling reason to modify, much less reverse our Feb. 23, 2023 decision," the CA said.

The accused are questioning before the CA a ruling by the Quezon City regional trial court (RTC Br. 216) where the cases are pending after the QC court allowed the prosecution to amend the charges to change the description of one of the items, the serial number in a firearm, seized during the raid.

The prosecution said the amendments sought were mere clerical errors.

The accused had also questioned the decision of the QC court to require the defense to name the three witnesses it intends to present during the trial. Divulging the names, the accused claimed, would violate their right against self-incrimination.

"(A)s found by RTC-216, the questioned amendment does not prejudice accused-appellant's rights; it does not: (a) charge another offense different or distinct from the charge of illegal possession of a firearm averred in the original information; (b) alter the prosecution's theory of the case that he was caught possessing a firearm without a license or permit so as to cause him surprise and affect the form of defense he has or will assume; (c) introduce new and material facts; and (d) add anything which was essential for conviction,” the CA’s Feb. 23 decision read.

“In effect, the assailed amendment, which reflected the correct serial number of the subject firearm, merely added precision to the factual allegations already contained in the original information. Besides, to our mind, the change of the serial number in the Information from “M143043” to “MG143043” is an obvious correction of a clerical error — one which is visible to the eye or obvious to the understanding. It is an error made by a clerk or a transcriber or a mistake in copying or writing," it added.

The court also turned down the accused's claim that the QC court should not have allowed the disclosure of the names of their witnesses.

"It bears to stress that the right against self-incrimination must be invoked at the proper time, that is, when a question calling for an incriminating answer is propounded. Necessarily then, the right against self-incrimination may only be invoked when the specific question, incriminatory in character, is actually put to the witness," it said.

On March 2, 2017, members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) conducted an operation to implement search warrants at the residence of Manalo inside the INC compound in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

The search allegedly yielded several unlicensed firearms and ammunition which were traced to Manalo, Hemedez and Ledesma, among others. (PNA)