February 3, 2023

More than two months after filing, the murder charges in relation to the death of a seven-year-old boy in Baguio reported as alleged death by hanging are still under the preliminary investigation stage with opposing parties asking the investigating prosecutors to inhibit from the case.
The child’s death was reported to the Baguio City Police Office on May 30 by his guardians as an apparent suicide by hanging inside their apartment in Aurora Hill, Baguio City.
Initial inquiry made by BCPO investigators, however, led to a full-blown criminal investigation after finding evidence of abuse on the child’s body.
The BCPO on June 10 filed before the Baguio City Prosecutor’s Office a murder case and violation of the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act against the child’s guardians, spouses Loly Ann Duccog Dalipog and Efren Uyammi Dalipog, residents of Ambiong, Aurora Hill.
Charges for obstruction of justice and violation of the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act have also been filed against the spouses along with Wenzel Duccog and Marcelino Walang.
Based on records, on June 15, the case was assigned to Assistant City Prosecutor Ruth P. Bernabe for preliminary investigation.
On July 1, spouses Dalipog, Duccog, and Walang have asked the City Prosecutor for Bernabe to inhibit from investigating and resolving their case, claiming Bernabe has prejudged their case without waiting for their counter-affidavits and allegedly due to her record of showing partiality to file cases of such nature, citing a case involving province-mates from Ifugao, which is their home province. They reiterated their request for Bernabe’s inhibition from the case on July 7.
On July 4, the mother of the victim, Milagros Duccog Dumulag, from Hong Kong wrote City Chief Prosecutor Elmer Sagsago asking that the case filed by the police be dismissed and allow them to settle it through the culture of Ifugaos. She said her sister Loly Ann, one of the respondents, took good care of her son since he was one year old, and strongly believes her sister would never think of harming her son.
In a resolution issued on July 9, Bernabe has inhibited from the case. However, she stated that the insinuations of the respondents are speculative, mere conjecture in nature, malicious, and has no basis.
Among others, Bernabe said “if she inhibits herself, it might set a bad precedent as any party can disparagingly make accusations of bias because they are wary of the competence of the investigating prosecutor who might eventually resolve the cases against them, which in turn would delay the administration of justice.”
Bernabe then opted to inhibit from handling the case, which was reassigned to Pros. Philip Randolf Kiat-ong.
On July 24, Martin Guinniling Jr., assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office and who claimed being the biological father the victim, filed a motion of the inhibition of the Baguio City Prosecutor’s Office, believing that the sudden transfer of the case from one prosecutor to another casts doubt on the impartiality of the office in investigating the case.
On July 25, the victim’s mother again wrote the City Prosecutor denying that Guinniling is the father of her son.
On July 28, the BCPO through its legal counsel Atty. Ford G. Tuazon also filed a motion for inhibition of Kiat-ong and the entire City Prosecutor’s Office because of their perceived partiality. The BCPO alleged that without their knowledge and without being informed of any motion for the inhibition of Bernabe, the case was suddenly transferred to another prosecutor.
In his replies to the motions for inhibition of the BCPO and Guinniling both dated July 29, Sagsago said he had the case reassigned to Kiat-ong taking into consideration the case load of prosecutors and on the basis of the requests of the respondents and the conformity of Ber-nabe.
In the case of Guinniling, he was never heard of as the victim’s biological father so it is impossible to inform him of the inhibition of Bernabe and the reassignment of the case to Kiat-ong. Sagsago explained that the paternity and the personality of Guinniling to participate in the case is an issue.
Sagsago said the case has already been submitted for resolution and he has asked the concerned parties if they wanted that no resolution be issued and for the case to be transferred to the Office of Regional Prosecutor.
On Aug. 3, Tuazon reiterated the BCPO’s prayer that the case be transferred to the Office of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office, or, in the event it is returned to the Baguio City Prosecutor’s Office, the same should not be assigned to the current investigating prosecutor but to another prosecutor who usually handles cases involving minors. – Hanna C. Lacsamana