Kidnapping case vs vice mayor dismissed Print
Sunday, 13 February 2011 14:48

COTABATO CITY —The presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court here dismissed the other day for lack of evidence a kidnapping complaint the city prosecutor filed against Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema.

Judge Ibrahim Bansawan of the Regional Trial Court Branch 15  here said he has officially denied an appeal by City Prosecutor Wilfred Buyco to prosecute Sema and several of his followers, among them incumbent City Councilor Sukarno Sema, in connection with the January 8 kidnapping here of Adin Yu, whose family owns the city’s oldest hardware store, a bakery and two restaurants.

Sema, chairman of the most dominant of at least three factions in the Moro National Liberation Front, has accused his political adversaries and the city’s former police director, Senior Supt. Willie Dangane, of having instigated the filing of the case against him, despite his effort of helping work out the victim’s release through backchannel negotiations.                                              

“There was no evidence at all linking Vice Mayor Sema to that kidnapping case,” Bansawan said in an interview yesterday with Catholic station dxMS here.

Bansawan said he also found out, based on the documents submitted to his office, that Buyco neither initiated a mandatory preliminary investigation nor required Sema to submit a counter-affidavit for him to answer for the allegations by the police, as the “nominal complainant,” as basis for determining the credence of the supposed kidnapping case against him.

“Walang katuturan at walang basehan yung mga accounts ng supposed witnesses laban sa mga akusado,” Bansawan said.”I did not find any evidence linking them to the crime.”

Peace advocacy outfits here, among them organizations implementing peace-building programs funded by foreign donors, have urged Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to censure Buyco for what was for them a “questionable attempt” to prosecute Sema for a kidnapping case without the benefit of due process.

“If that can be done to a vice mayor, who is an influential man, how much more to poor people? The justice secretary should look into this serious concern immediately,” said an Egyptian trained Ustadz, Ahmad Salilam Gundran, who handles peace education in a big Madrasah (Islamic) school here.

Hundreds of MNLF members and followers of Sema, whose wife, Bai Sandra, incumbent congresswoman in the first district of Maguindanao, picketed Tuesday at the premises of the city council building here and demanded for the ouster Buyco, who has reportedly been on leave after he submitted to the RTC the kidnapping complaint against Sema almost two weeks ago.

Reporters here have since been trying to reach Buyco for a reaction on assertions by local Muslim and Christian communities he should be relieved from his post and replaced with someone from outside of Central Mindanao.

The police, meanwhile, still face a blank wall on the whereabouts of Yu, 55, who was last reported as being held captive somewhere in a marshy area at the border of Cotabato City and Kabuntalan, Maguindanao.

Yu was the third Chinese trader kidnapped here in since September 2010. Moro gunmen abducted last August merchant Nelson Tay and subsequently, Conchita Tan last November. Tay and Tan were released by their captors in exchange for hefty ransoms. — Felix Ostrea