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Judge revokes warrant for arrest of suspect in journalist Dennis Cuesta's murder

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 12 February 2009, a judge in the Philippines lifted the warrant of arrest he himself had issued against the alleged killers of radio broadcaster Dennis Cuesta.

Judge Isaac Alvero Moran, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 36, of General Santos City, revoked the 3 February warrant of arrest issued against Police Inspector Redempto "Boy" Acharon and several other suspects in the killing of Cuesta after the city's RTC Executive Judge ordered the case to "be included in the regular raffling of cases . . . and to be considered as a newly filed case." General Santos City is approximately 1049 km southeast of Manila.

In his 12 February order, Moran said that ". . . the probable cause order and warrant of arrest issued on 3 February must of necessity end up in smoke as the legal basis of its issuance has been virtually stripped. Consequentially, said order and warrant are hereby recalled, lifted and set aside to pave way for Hon. Panambulan M. Mimbisa, presiding Judge of RTC-37, to make his own finical and evangelical (sic) findings therein." Mimbisa has yet to decide if a warrant against Acharon should be issued.

On 11 February, RTC Executive Judge Oscar Noel Jr. ordered that the case be re-raffled "to give peace of mind to the concerned party" acting on the "Very Urgent Motion to Recall Case Raffled to Branch 35 (sic)" filed by Acharon's lawyer, Rogelio Garcia, on 10 February.

Gloria Cuesta, wife of the slain broadcaster, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that she was shocked by the lifting of the arrest warrant against Acharon. "It was unfair . . . Are they trying to delay justice by recalling the warrant of arrest?" Cuesta said in Filipino.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in Davao said in a statement that "some colleagues . . . had predicted that this development would happen."

"That their prediction has been accurate makes us fear the Cuesta murder may end up like the majority of other cases of our slain colleagues," NUJP added.

Only in two cases since 2001 have there been convictions against the alleged gunmen - in the killing of Pagadian journalist Edgar Damalerio and of Sultan Kudarat journalist Marlene Esperat. No mastermind has been convicted.

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