Sandiganbayan acquits ex-forensic chief

THE Sandiganbayan has acquitted the former chief of the PNP Crime Laboratory in Central Visayas who was accused of falsifying a medical certificate on the death of Mario Alfie Ducayag in 2013.

In a 14-page decision issued on Jan. 31, 2020, the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division cleared former Senior Supt. Nestor Sator, then chief of the Regional Crime Laboratory in Central Visayas, on charges of falsification of a medical certificate and obstruction of justice.

The charges filed against Sator stemmed from the allegedly conflicting findings of the autopsy conducted on Ducayag by the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation 7 in 2013.

Ducayag, 23, was shopping at a mall in downtown Cebu City on April 12, 2013 when he was held for questioning by the mall’s security personnel for suspected shoplifting after failing to show receipts for a pair of slippers inside his shopping bag.

Ducayag died on the same day.

Sator’s autopsy report named the cause of death as asphyxia due to bleeding pulmonary tuberculosis. Asphyxia is the lack of oxygen or excess of carbon dioxide in the body.

A subsequent autopsy report by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed Ducayag had died because of traumatic neck injuries, which suggested foul play.

However, the anti-graft court said the discrepancy between the two reports is not a basis to conclude that Sator’s report is false.

“As held by this jurisprudence, the first autopsy has great evidentiary value as such was done immediately or 19 hours after the death of Ducayag, while the body was still fresh and no other chemicals were injected to the cadaver that would cause its decomposition,” the court decision said.

The court added that the finding of the re-autopsy could have been brought by postmortem factors such as the first autopsy on the cadaver performed by Sator, the period of time that lapsed from the time of death and the re-autopsy conducted, and the fact that the body was already embalmed during the re-autopsy.

The court also said that the prosecution failed to establish that the autopsy report prepared by Sator would greatly affect the criminal investigation or proceeding or investigation on the death of Ducayag.

The court absolved Sator from any civil liability, as acts from which such liability may arise do not exist. The hold departure order issued against him was also lifted and set aside.

The 14-page decision was penned by Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr., Michael Frederick Musgni, and Lorifel Lacap Pahimna. (WBS)