IN DEFENSE of his two beleaguered personal bodyguards, Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava II filed administrative charges against 17 members of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO).
Charges for grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service were filed against Senior Superintendent Martin Defensor, Iloilo City police chief, before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas on Feb. 6, 2018.
Other respondents include Superintendent Godfrey Buslotan, chief of the ICPO – Intelligence Section; Superintendent Jonathan Pablito, Iloilo City Police Station 1 chief; and Chief Inspector Marlon Valencia, ICPS5 Chief.
Also charged were Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Edward Barrida, PO2 Cyril Maestre, PO2 John Marcel San Pedro, PO3 Richard Ivan Lopez, PO3 Oliver Lonasco, PO3 Ricardo Morante, SPO2 Jessie Jim Rubio, PO3 Joel Novera, SPO1 Vernie Escorial, PO3 Vincent Angelo Hongco, PO2 Melvin Niño, PO2 Enrico Gonzales, and PO2 Peter Organia.
Navas complaint stemmed from the arrest of his two security aides, brothers Julius and Roy de los Reyes, who were tagged in the killing of Navas cousin Mercedes Ging-Ging Nava.
The two were arrested inside Navas office at the Iloilo City Hall on Jan. 7, 2019, three days after Mercedes and her companion, Erwin Fontillas, were killed by riding-in-tandem gunmen at Barangay Calajunan, Mandurriao District.
In his complaint affidavit, Nava argued that the arrest of the de los Reyes brothers is illegal and void ab initio (from the beginning).
Nava, a lawyer by profession, said that basing from the available facts, circumstances and evidence of the respondents, the so/called hot pursuit is no longer applicable in the case at hand.
He cited that under Section 5 (b) of Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, two conditions must concur for a warrantless arrest to be valid: first, the offender has just committed an offense and second, the arresting officer or private person has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested has committed it.
Nava pointed out that Mercedes murder happened three days before the brothers arrest. As such, the first element is clearly wanting.
He also said that the respondent police officers had no personal knowledge of the facts linking the de los Reyes brothers to the crime.
Instead, their knowledge was based entirely on what they had been told by others.
Nava also insisted that the arresting officers have not personally witnessed the crime.
Based on police blotter reports, Nava said the two witnesses that tagged the de los Reyes brothers only provided information two days after the crime was committed.
Common sense will dictate that had the respondents been conducting a hot pursuit operation against the de los Reyes brothers, the best that they could do was to pay a visit or at least call me because for sure, wherever I am, the two brothers would be there, too, he said.
If proven that the arrest is illegal from the start, it follows that the subsequent search is also unlawful. Thus, the recovered items are inadmissible in evidence being fruits of a poisonous tree.
Defensors team confiscated three caliber .45 pistols and a hand grenade from the de los Reyes brothers.
But for Nava, the hand grenade was a big joke.
Recoveries of such explosive item are no longer new to police officers modus operandi. It has become a common trend in law enforcement these days. I would never allow any of the security personnel to carry explosives considering that I have four minor children who often rode with me in the vehicle, he said.
Nava said police investigators disregarded to incite a potential witness, a taxi driver named Romulo Jimena, who was at the crime scene and saw the shooting incident.
But police allegedly did not invite Jimena for questioning.
Jimena was allegedly quoted as saying that Mercedes assailants were short and lean and did not match the physical profiles of the de los Reyes brothers.
Nava said CCTV footages apparently matched Jimenas description.
In his opinion, Nava said the two witnesses were produced to pin down the brothers.
The propensity of the respondents to concoct and fabricate stories against the de los Reyes brothers is very apparent form the documents and papers at hand. Their bad faith has overcome the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties, he said.
He also accused three respondents Defensor, Buslotan, and Valencia of exacting revenge on the two suspects because their slain brother, SPO2 Rex de los Reyes, came up with a dossier on the three officers alleged involvement in illegal drugs.
The three police officials allegedly had motive to frame up the de los Reyes brothers.
In conclusion, Nava said all respondents must be jointly and severally liable, after having conspired and confederated with each other, when they illegally arrested the de los Reyes brothers without a valid warrant of arrest.
Nava also prayed that a decision be ordered rendering the dismissal of the respondents from government service; forfeiture of all benefits and other emoluments; and perpetual disqualification from holding any government position.
He also asked that the respondents be placed under preventive suspension, pending the outcome of the case for at least 90 days, in order to deter the respondents from using their authority to harass and intimidate me.
On Jan. 8, the ICPO filed charges for murder and violations of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act) and RA 9516 or illegal possession of explosives against the de los Reyes brothers.
Defensor said only one murder case for Mercedes death was filed since Fontillas family explicitly told police investigators that they will not pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators.
Defensor said he respects Navas move to file cases against them.
I respect his right mag-file sang case. In due time we will answer sa proper venue, Defensor said.
He added that the Ombudsman cases would distract them in their work.
Distraction for us kasi imbes na magtrabaho kami mag-attend kami ng mga hearing. Pero part na sang trabaho namon. We will continue to do our jobs as police.
Naniniwala ako na kung ang sandigan mo ay katotohanan, there is nothing to worry, there is nothing to fear basta kami we will continue on doing our jobs.
Defensor also debunked claims that they abused their powers.
You can judge kon ano natabo. Hindi namin in-abuse. Hindi namin sinaktan yung accused. You can freely see them sa Mandurriao kon ano sila ka healthy subong. Ako, naniniwala ako we just exercised our duty to bring justice to the victims.