This was Renato Llenes’s answer when asked last Friday, June 7, 2019 about his plea on the murder case filed against him over the killing of Christine Lee Silawan in Lapu-Lapu City.
The arraignment was held before the sala of Regional Trial Court Branch 70 Judge Christine Muga-Abad.
Llenes, after entering his plea, avoided reporters who questioned him about his promise that he would enter a guilty plea to avoid a lengthy trial.
Last April 11, Llenes, 43, admitted killing Silawan, saying he was under the influence of illegal drugs when he committed the crime.
The 16-year-old’s body was found last March 11 in a grassy lot in Barangay Bankal.
Her face was skinned to the bone.
Llenes’s legal counsel Manuel Degollacion Jr. said in an interview that Llenes entered the not guilty plea because they want a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution and a downgrade of the case from murder to homicide.
Degollacion said Llenes’s plea does not mean that he is withdrawing his earlier admission.
“Ang pag-plead not guilty ni Llenes usa ka paagi nga mapresentar nila ilang argumento nga dili murder ang nabuhat ni Llenes kon dili usa ka kaso sa homicide (His pleading not guilty is one way for us to present our argument that what he did was not murder, but a homicide),” said Degollacion.
The lawyer further said the court would have to probe the police’s evidence to determine if Llenes should be put on trial for murder.
He said Llenes will plead guilty if the court would downgrade the case to homicide.
Degollacion denied he is delaying the case, saying the defense lawyer’s strategy is to seek a lower sentence for his client.
City Prosecutor Ruso Zaragoza said he was surprised by Llenes’s action. He said Llenes had executed his extra-judicial confession in the presence of Degollacion before the arraignment.
In a separate interview, Assistant Prosecutor Sheilamar Abadia said the prosecution did not accept the plea bargain offer by Llenes’s camp, saying murder is a heinous crime.
“It happens sometimes that an extra-judicial confession was unable to proceed. What we can do is to compel him (Llenes) to take the witness stand and we will be forced to present him as a hostile witness because it was under oath,” Abadia said.
The accused can ask for a plea bargain with the permission of the prosecution and the private complainant. In this case, there is no private complainant.
“Perhaps, we could accept the plea bargain offer if our evidence is weak. But, in this case, we have a strong evidence. That is why we could not accept their offer to downgrade the case to homicide,” Zaragoza said in mixed Cebuano and English.
Abad set the preliminary conference on June 25 and the pre-trial conference on June 28.
The prosecution and the defense will present their evidence during these court dates.
The prosecution wants to fast-track the trial by presenting evidence twice in every two weeks, but the defense asked to conduct the trial only once a month.
According to the city police’s deputy director for operation David Señor, there is no reason for the prosecution to panic after Llenes’s change of heart, saying they have prepared for it.
“We need not worry since we have a strong evidence against the suspect. His not guilty plea is expected. During the investigation he had the willingness (to cooperate). But during the pendency of the case, while he’s inside the jail, he had changed his mind, or maybe he was advised by his lawyer to do so,” he said. (from GCM of SuperBalita Cebu/LMY/KAL/WBS)