The Supreme Court has commended Judge Stela Marie Q. Gandia-Asuncion of Branch 106, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Paniqui, Tarlac, for expeditiously resolving the consolidated murder cases of a police officer whose fatal shooting of his neighbors Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony Gregorio on December 20, 2020 was caught on a video that went viral on both social and mass media.
“I congratulate Judge Stela Marie Q. Gandia-Asuncion for her swift and efficient resolution of the murder cases raffled to her,” said Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo. “Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic and community quarantines, she was able to hear and resolve these two cases in eight months. The timely resolution of cases is both a constitutional mandate and a key aspect in the delivery of justice. May her example inspire all of us to continue working towards a Judiciary that is both receptive and responsive to the needs of our citizenry and the community,” added the Chief Justice.
Judge Gandia-Asuncion rendered the Joint Decision in Criminal Case Nos. 313-20 and 314-40 two months ahead of the 10-month deadline for hearing and deciding criminal cases.
Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, now dismissed from service, was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder (two counts) and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each conviction. He was also ordered to pay the heirs of the victims civil indemnity and damages.
The case was raffled to Judge Gandia-Asuncion before the end of December 2020. Judge Gandia-Asuncion, who was a Municipal Trial Court Judge for more than ten years prior to her promotion to the RTC in 2019, set the case for hearing and conducted continuous trial in accordance with the Guidelines for Continuous Trial in Criminal Cases.
She heard a total of eight witnesses, five for the prosecution, and three for the defense, including the accused, who testified through videoconferencing from the detention facility.
Judge Gandia-Asuncion could have promulgated the decision even earlier were it not for the two separate forced lockdowns of her court and of the Office of the Prosecutor due to the COVID-19 infections. She gave the defense two additional trial dates in June, and re-scheduled the promulgation to August, which was well within the period prescribed by the Guidelines. ###