De Lima inclined to believe six suspects in gang rape are innocent

By Froilan Gallardo in Davao City and Ferdinandh Cabrera in Cotabato City

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 October) – No criminal charges will be filed against the six suspects in the gang-rape of a 21-year old volunteer nurse in Upi, Maguindanao on September 25.

“I am inclined to believe they are innocent,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters in Davao City, where she proceeded after a case conference with the police and DOJ prosecutors in Cotabato City.

De Lima said a seventh suspect was even cleared by the companions of “Florence,” the nurse who fell victim in Upi town last Sept. 25.

“According to the witnesses, the seventh suspect left early because he was already very drunk,” De Lima told reporters here.

In Cotabato City, De Lima ordered investigators to sift through pieces of evidence and information to determine the real culprits.

She said her department would see to it that the “correct persons” would be prosecuted.

“We want the closure to this case done swiftly, but correctly so that only the real culprits will be penalized for the offense,” De Lima told reporters in Cotabato City.

In Davao City, De Lima said another suspect, a certain Melchor Fulgencio, who executed an affidavit admitting to his involvement in the rape case is also “highly questionable.”

“Melchor pointed to a certain Edwin as his accomplice but we do not know if this person really exists or not,” she said.

De Lima flew to Cotabato City to meet with the police and prosecutors upon orders of President Benigno Aquino III.

From Cotabato City, De Lima motored to Davao City where she visited “Florence” in her heavily guarded room at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (formerly the Davao Medical Center) Friday night.

The Justice Secretary clarified that contrary to reports, there is “no suspect who belongs to an influential political family in Maguindanao.”

“I have asked the police to reinvestigate the case and find the real suspects. We must have hard evidence,” she said.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he, too, believes that Fulgencio, who is 52 years-old, is not the perpetrator.

“He is too old for that. I do not think he committed the crime,” Mangudadatu said.
Mangundadatu said he is still checking if Florence was among the 100 nurses hired by the Maguindanao provincial government in its health program.

He said he has issued instructions to all the nurses they have hired, to be careful in their movements, especially that no suspect has been found yet.

“Basta pagkatapos ng trabaho, doon na sila (nurses) sa kanilang bahay at huwag nang lumabas, (After work, they should stay in their houses and not leave), he said.

He said they are investigating at least 14 individuals who might be involved in the case. (Froilan Gallardo in Davao City/Ferdinandh Cabrera in Cotabato City/MindaNews).