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Woman mistaken for convicted human trafficker freed by Cebu court

March 7, 2017 ·  By Ador Vincent S. Mayol for newsinfo.inquirer.net

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Justice (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

Justice (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

CEBU CITY — A Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge has ordered the release of a female detainee who was arrested by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7) after she was mistaken for a convicted human trafficker.

In his order on Wednesday, Judge Jose Andal of RTC Branch 24 noted the findings of a fingerprint examiner that the fingerprints of Jocelyn Cardona were different from those of the real accused who had the same name as Cardona’s.

The judge also agreed with the observation of the prosecution that the real accused had a mole on her lower jaw based on the records of the court.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the prosecutor and a representative of the International Justice Mission (IJM) examined the face of Cardona and did not find any mole.

Judge Andal was convinced that the CIDG-7 got the wrong person.

“The fingerprints belong to two different persons. The negative finding is already conclusive as far as the expert is concerned,” Andal said.

“The prosecution (is) satisfied that the herein movant is not the same Jocelyn Cardona indicted in the

Information. The court joins the observation of the prosecution. The movant should, therefore, be released from custody,” he added.

Cardona, 38, has been detained for 36 days.

The judge ordered law enforcers to arrest the real Jocelyn Cardona, who was convicted, along with two other persons, of human trafficking in 2016.

Lawyer Glen Villarina, the counsel of the petitioner, said they could not blame the CIDG-7 for arresting the wrong person.

“There was no middle name on the warrant of arrest,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Still, Villariza said they were studying the possibility of filing countercharges against the CIDG-7.

Last year, the court convicted three human traffickers, including one Jocelyn Cardona, who was out on bail.

The CIDG-7 operatives, Villariza said, looked for the real accused by searching her name on Facebook.

“My client’s name is also Jocelyn Cardona so they thought she was the same person convicted by the court,” the lawyer said.

On Dec. 21, 2016, the CIDG-7 operatives served the arrest warrant on Villariza’s client at her house in Ronda town, south Cebu—85 kilometers away from Cebu City.

The woman was subsequently detained at the Cebu City Jail female dormitory.

Her family requested Villariza to assist them in seeking her release.

Villariza said he filed a pleading in court to release her client who was not even charged with a single case in court.

The court requested Senior Insp. Maria Lela Carado of the Philippine Crime Laboratory to conduct a fingerprint examination on Villariza’s client on Wednesday.

Carado then ruled that the woman’s fingerprints are totally not the same with those of the real accused.

Supt. Royina Garma, the new chief of the CIDG-7, begged off from issuing any statement on Wednesday, saying she had yet to be briefed on the case.

“I have not read the case yet nor have seen the warrant of arrest. I’ll reserve my comments after I peruse them,” said Garma, who assumed her post only last Jan. 4 or two weeks after the wrong person was arrested. SFM/rga

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