SC affirms prison terms for businesswoman’s 1998 kidnapping, awards P300K damages
The Supreme Court has affirmed lengthy prison terms for the kidnappers of businesswoman Michelle Ragos who demanded P30 million in ransom from her family.
In a recent 10-page decision, the SC 2nd Division affirmed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) imposition of the penalty of reclusion perpetua, or imprisonment of up to 40 years, on Jimmy Alunan, Omar Kamir, Alex Daliano and Bayan Abbas Adil. They were declared ineligible for parole.
Likewise, the SC sustained the 10 to 17-year prison term for accomplices Brahim Lidasan, Nhokie Mohamad, Rocky Mocalam, Teng Usman, Ali Matoc, Muslimen Wahab and Rowena Amal Rajid.
Besides upholding the CA’s September 2008 sentence, the SC also imposed civil liability on Kamir, Daliano and Adil. They were ordered to solidarily pay a total of P300,000 in civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages to Ragos, with an interest of 6% per annum from the finality of the judgment.
The Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 275 in August 2005 originally meted out the death penalty and the penalty of reclusion perpetua to the main suspects and their accomplices, respectively. But, the CA had to downgrade the penalties because former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enacted a law suspending the imposition of the death penalty.
Prosecutors said the abductors kidnapped Ragos on the evening of October 30, 1998 to earn a P30-million ransom, and detained her until she was finally rescued by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) on November 7, 1998, upon the payment of P4.83 million.
The SC continued to give credence to the testimonies of Ragos and suspect-turned-state witness Tadioden Bauting, the security guard of the businesswoman’s office and residential compound.
“These easily trump accused-appellants’ denial and alibi which are inherently weak defenses that cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the positive declaration by credible witnesses,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.