By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – The Court of Appeals has affirmed an earlier local court ruling that convicted the suspect behind the 2012 murder of Dutch missionary and development worker Willem Geertman.
In a 16-page decision dated Jan. 20, 2021, the Court of Appeals found the appeal of accused Marvin Nuguid as unmeritorious as the prosecution was able to establish all the elements of murder per the Philippine criminal justice system.
Nuguid was positively identified by three witnesses. The CA found the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses as “clear, positive, straightforward, and consistent.” They also found no improper motive on the part of the witnesses to falsely testify against the accused.
In his appeal, the accused pointed out inconsistencies in the narration of eyewitnesses. However, the appellate court noted that “minor inconsistencies even manifest truthfulness and candor and remove any suspicion of a rehearsed testimony.”
“What is crucial is that testimonies of the witnesses corroborate one another on material points, particularly in relating the principal occurrence and in the positive identification of the assailant, minor inconsistencies therein will not impair their credibility,” the CA said.
The CA also ruled that the prosecution was able to establish the circumstance of treachery, as Geertman was forced to kneel down facing away from the shooter. This meant that the Dutch missionary “could no employ any means of defending himself, but also directly and specifically made certain the execution of the crime,” according to the decision.
Geertman, an environmentalist and development worker, was shot dead in front of his house in Angeles City, Pampanga on July 3, 2012. He advocated for community development in the Philippines for 46 years.
His supporters believed his killing was politically-motivated, with witnesses saying they saw gunmen force Geertman to his knees before being shot to death. Two years ago, a Pampanga court found Nuguid guilty. However, his co-accused Harold Libao Dela Cruz remains at large.
Prior to his killing, Geertman received death threats for his humanitarian and development work. He was also red-tagged for his advocacies.
Ephraim Cortez, secretary-general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, welcomed the appellate court’s decision. He said he was confident that the Court of Appeals will affirm the earlier local decision, with the positive identification of the accused.
He told Bulatlat that “justice remains wanting as we were only able to put behind bars the gunman, and the mastermind is still scot-free.”
Still, he added that the decision is a sigh of relief in the rampant filing of trumped-up cases against activists and development workers and the still unresolved extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.