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Murder charges against journalist's killer downgraded to homicide

(CMFR/IFEX) - The Court of Appeals has downgraded to homicide the conviction for murder of the killer of dzMM senior editor Alberto Berbon in December 1996, citing the prosecution's failure to provide evidence for the "abuse of superior strength," necessary for a murder conviction.

Convicted of murder by a regional trial court in 1999, Jose "Danny" Espineli's life sentence was reduced to imprisonment for 10 to 17 years. He was, however, still obliged to pay 200,000 pesos (approx. US$4,466) in damages to Berbon's family.

The Court of Appeals' 29 June 2007 decision stated that none of the witnesses presented by the prosecution saw the actual killing. "The circumstances that qualify the killing [as] murder must be proved indubitably as the killing itself."

The court said that abuse of superior strength occurs when "the aggressor and the victim are on unequal footing," with the suspect using this advantage to commit a crime.

Nevertheless, the court upheld the circumstantial evidence that pointed to the accused's responsibility in the killing: a witness overheard him telling a co-accused, "I don't want Berbon to live until tomorrow" before boarding a red car, armed with a .45 pistol.

The court also considered Espineli's August 1998 escape from detention -while the case was ongoing- as proof of guilt. He was rearrested in February 1999.

On 15 December 1996, four men in a red Ford Escort ambushed Berbon while he was drinking with friends right outside his home in Imus, Cavite, a province south of Metro Manila. Berbon, 45, died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds while his wife, Sabina, was wounded.

Berbon was a leader of Samahan ng mga Mamamahayag sa Kabite (Journalists' Association of Cavite), as well as a known anti-crime advocate. Charges had been filed against three other suspects in his murder. Radio station dzMM is owned by broadcast network giant ABS-CBN.

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#Argentina: Intendente Claudio Filippa pide a hombres solteros que "abusen" de una periodista - @FOPEAhttps://t.co/SJDHFyiJlZ

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