MANILA — The camera can't lie: Even though only one person thrust the knife, the others joined the attack with "intent to kill."
Citing a piece of security video footage as their main evidence, public prosecutors are pressing murder charges instead of the bailable offense of homicide against the four suspects in last week's killing of George Anikow, a U.S. Marine officer and husband of an American diplomat.
The case-which led to the arrest of four young men said to be from well-to-do families and drew offers of technical assistance from the US government-will be tried by Judge Winlove Dumayas of Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 59, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said yesterday.
Anikow, 41, was stabbed dead early Saturday morning in what police said was a senseless but isolated case of violence near the upscale Bel-Air Village in Makati. The Nov. 24 incident was triggered by an altercation between the American and four men in a Volvo SUV at a checkpoint going to Rockwell commercial center.
A security guard manning the checkpoint earlier told investigators that the suspects apparently lost their cool when Anikow, who appeared to be drunk, approached the checkpoint and butted in to tell the men to produce IDs. The American, who was just repeating the guard's request for identification, then gave the SUV a hard tap, prompting the four men to get off the vehicle and attack him.
Arellano on Wednesday approved the recommendation of the Makati Prosecutor's Office to file murder charges against Juan Alfonso Abastillas, 24, a resident of the exclusive subdivision Galeria de Magallanes in Makati; Crispin de la Paz, 23, a businessman engaged in multimedia production; Osric Cabrera, 27, owner of a kidney dialysis center in Makati; and Galicanao Datu III, a fourth year political science student of De La Salle University.
Makati Assistant City Prosecutor Gilbert Alcala earlier explained in his recommendation that "although only one of the respondents may have inflicted the fatal wound on the victim ... the evidence presented shows that the other respondents participated in attacking and ganging up on him."
"All the respondents even chased him despite the fact that he already sustained a stab wound and ran away, and continued attacking him despite the fact that he already fell to the ground," Alcala also noted.
In a five-page resolution, Arellano also gave credence to the eyewitness testimony of Rockwell security guard Jose Rommel Saavedra and a video footage of the 4 a.m. encounter at the corner Kalayaan Avenue and Rockwell Drive in Barangay Poblacion.
He noted that the four men acted "in conspiracy with each other" and that the footage alone showed that "all the respondents helped one another in attacking and mauling" Anikow, despite the fact that the victim was already running away after being stabbed.
Makati police chief Senior Supt. Manuel Lukban earlier disclosed that the U.S. government had offered technical assistance in building up the case, including the enhancement of the security video footage.