The Supreme Court, in a 21-page decision penned by Justice Dante O. Tinga, has affirmed the conviction of the kidnappers of Engr. Ignacio Ong, Jr., the son-in-law of tycoon John Gokongwei, Jr. who died during the shootout between his captors and the police.
Appellants Millano M. Muit, Sergio C. Pancho, Jr., Rolando T. Dequillo, and Romeo Pancho had been earlier convicted by Branch 83 of the Tanauan City Regional Trial Court, later affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA), for the crimes of kidnapping for ransom with homicide and carnapping.
As for the penalty, the Court upheld the commutation by the Court of Appeals of the penalties for both crimes from death to reclusion perpetua with all its accessory penaties and without eligibility for parole, pursuant to RA 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty. It awarded PhP25,000 temperate damages to the heirs of the victim in absence of sufficient proof of his earning capacity.
The Court also increased the amount of civil indemnity and moral damages to PhP75,000 and PhP500,000 respectively. It awarded PhP25,000 as exemplary damages in the presence of the aggravating circumstance of the death of the victim in the crime of kidnapping and of being committed by a band or more than three armed men in the crime of carnapping.
Ong was taken hostage in 1997 while visiting the Fleopac construction site at Barangay Darasa, Tanauan, Batangas. Ong’s Pajero was also taken and used to spirit him away. Ong died in the ensuing shootout between the police and his kidnappers at a checkpoint near the Lipa City bus station.
The Court found that “All the appellants took active part in the criminal conspiracy and performed different roles to consummate their common plan.” It relied on the extrajudicial confessions of Pancho, Jr., Dequilo, and Muit which it found was not the product of coercion and torture. (GR No. 181043, People v. Muit, October 8, 2008)