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DOJ clears rights lawyer of kidnap

The Department of Justice has cleared a human rights lawyer of the allegation of kidnapping a 14-year-old boy who survived the massacre of nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay City last year.

In a June 17 resolution, Assistant State Prosecutor Ferdinand Fernandez dismissed the kidnapping and serious illegal detention complaint against National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers lawyer Katherine Panguban for lack of probable cause.

The estranged father of the 14-year-old boy had accused Panguban of kidnapping his son.

Panguban denied the complaint, insisting that she had signed an agreement for legal services with the boy’s mother, as well as a turnover agreement that formalized the return of the minor, whom social workers took in after the massacre, to his mother’s custody.

In a resolution, the DOJ cited the admission of the mother and son during the preliminary investigation that they willingly submitted themselves to the custody of the lawyer. 

The father, Vic Pedaso, did not show up at the hearing, the DOJ said.

“With this statement, the elements of kidnapping and serious illegal detention allegedly committed by respondent negated complainant’s statement in his complaint-affidavit,” the resolution stated.

“Unarguably, there is no kidnapping or serious illegal detention to speak of, as the minor victim [name withheld] was taken from the custody of his biological father Vic Pedaso, and given to his mother,” it said.

The prosecutor also noted that it was the mother who sought Panguban’s assistance.

“There is a lack of deprivation of liberty of Victor as he freely chose to be with... his biological mother,” the prosecutor said.

The case arose from the killing of nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental last Oct. 20.

Western Visayas police reported that more or less 40 unidentified armed men shot at the victims, including two minors, when they were resting at Hacienda Nene in Purok Firetree, Barangay Bulanon in Sagay.

The multiple murder complaints against those accused of involvement in the crime have been transferred to Manila for investigation. 

Topics: Department of Justice , DOJ , human rights lawyer , kidnapping
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