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DOJ clears lawyer accused of abducting boy survivor of Sagay killings

The Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed a complaint against a human rights lawyer accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old boy who survived the massacre of nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay City last year.

In a June 17 resolution seen Friday, Assistant State Prosecutor Ferdinand Fernandez dismissed the kidnapping and serious illegal detention complaint against National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) lawyer Katherine Panguban for lack of probable cause.

The estranged father of the 14-year-old had accused Panguban of kidnapping his son, a charge the lawyer denied. She claimed she had signed an agreement for legal services with the boy's mother, as well as a turnover agreement that formalized the return of the minor, whom social workers took in after the massacre, to his mother's custody.

In the 4-page resolution, the DOJ noted that mother and son said during the preliminary investigation that they willingly submitted themselves to the custody of the lawyer. The father, Vic Pedaso, did not show up at the hearing, the DOJ said.

"With this statement, the elements of kidnapping and serious illegal detention allegedly committed by respondent negated complainant's statement in his complaint-affidavit," the prosecutor wrote.

"Unarguably, there is no kidnapping or serious illegal detention to speak of, as the minor victim [name withheld] was taken from the custody of his biological father Vic Pedaso, and given to his mother."

The prosecutor also observed it was the mother who sought Panguban's assistance.

"There is a lack of deprivation of liberty of Victor as he freely chose to be with... his biological mother," the DOJ said.

The now-resolved complaint stemmed  from the killing of nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental last Oct. 20.

Western Visayas police reported that more or less 40 unidentified armed men shot at the victims, including two minors, when they were resting at Hacienda Nene in Purok Firetree, Barangay Bulanon in Sagay.

The multiple murder complaints against those suspected to have committed the crime have been transferred to Manila for investigation. — DVM, GMA News