MANILA—The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the decision of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) guilty verdict on the two Indonesian terrorists who were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in in the February 2003 bombing of Awang Airport in Maguindanao which killed one person and injured several others.
In a 23-page decision dated March 30 penned by Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob, the CA’s Former Special Sixteenth Division affirmed the Pasig RTC’s sentence of life imprisonment without parole against Taufiq Rifqi and Zulkifli Julkifli guilty of murder and attempted murder.
They were all meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment.
The CA dismissed the petition of terrorists seeking the reversal of their conviction.
“The Court finds no compelling ground to disturb the factual findings of the RTC. As hereinbefore pronounced, the rule is well-settled that factual findings of the trial court regarding the credibility of witnesses are accorded great weight and utmost respect given that trial courts have first hand observation of the witnesses’ demeanor while testifying in court,” the CA ruled.
The CA denied the claim of Zulkifli and Rifqi that their arrest violates their constitutional rights.
“The Court is not persuaded that there exist irregularities in its issuance, much less in the service thereof,” it noted.
The CA also did not give weight to the “defenses of denial and alibi” offered by the two accused in light of the positive identification of the witnesses.
“It is axiomatic that positive testimony prevails when juxtaposed with negative testimony. Appellants alibis that they were at different places on February 20, 2003 are negative and self-serving and cannot be given more evidentiary value vis-à-vis the affirmative testimony of credible witnesses,” read the decision.
The CA held that the trial court did not err in holding that the crime was aggravated by treachery and premeditation.
The appellate court also increased the moral damages that the accused should pay to the heirs of Corpuz to PHP75,000 from PHP50,000 and other victims.
The case stemmed from the bombing of the Awang Airport on Feb. 20, 2003 where Sgt. Nelson Corpuz was killed while several others were injured.
The respondents were said to be members of the Rajah Solaiman, a group of Christians who converted to Islam, and allied themselves with the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.
Based on the investigation conducted by authorities, the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device that was placed in a white Suzuki multicab, which was parked in a restaurant that was placed across the entrance gate of the airport.