By: Jennifer P. Rendon and Glazyl Y. Masculino
THE alleged New People’s Army (NPA) commander who was arrested June 23, 2019 in Cuartero, Capiz was already released from police custody due to confusion on his identity.
But the damage has been done on Baltasar Cresosto Saldo, 54, a resident of Barangay Sto. Angel, Dumalag whom Police Brigadier Gen. John Bulalacao, Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 director, paraded as a wanted criminal before the media at Camp Delgado in Iloilo City on June 24.
Saldo was released by police Monday evening after he was presented before Kabankalan City Prosecutors Office.
During the presentation, the prosecutor found the PNP witness’ statement lacking in proving that Saldo is indeed Virgilio Paragan, the ex-New People’s Army (NPA) commander facing a string of criminal charges in Negros Island.
According to information from PRO-6, the witness allegedly did not execute an affidavit that could link Saldo to the cases.
The Daily Guardian learned that aggrieved parties in the criminal cases and even relatives of Paragan were at the Kabankalan City prosecutors’ office when Saldo was presented.
One of them swore that Saldo was not his uncle, Virgilio Paragan.
Saldo was eventually released over doubts that he is not Paragan.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Joem Malong, PRO-6 spokesperson, clarified that there was no release order.
Instead, the prosecutor did not sign the witness’ affidavit, which compelled the police to release Saldo.
It was also noted that the witness was not a complainant in any of the criminal charges filed against Paragan.
Police officers were instead advised “that since the witness has identified Saldo, he should file a case against the latter for allegedly behind the killing of his father,” Malong said.
“As what we have earlier said, we leave it to the court if they would hold Saldo based on the accounts of the witness,” Malong said.
In Negros Occidental, Police Major Jonel Guadalupe, chief of Kabankalan City Police Station, Saldo was transported from Capiz to Kabankalan late Monday afternoon to verify if he is the person with two standing warrants for murder and attempted murder in the province.
Upon verification of the authorities, they found out that he is a different person.
Guadalupe said there was no witness who can testify if Saldo is also Paragan that is accused of murder and frustrated murder in Kabankalan City. He was then transported back to Capiz.
Guadalupe said the warrants for murder and attempted murder that served as bases in arresting Saldo were for Virgilio Paragan alias “Hassan.”
On Monday, Saldo was presented in a press conference hosted by PRO-6 in Camp Delgado.
There, a witness “positively” pinpointed Saldo as Virgilio Paragan.
Saldo, 54, an auto mechanic, was working in Poblacion Tacas, Cuartero, prior to his arrest.
It was believed that Saldo may have been using the name Virgilio Paragan alias Hassan while in the NPA movement.
Paragan is an alleged former commander of the Roger Mahinay Command of the NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros.
Paragan is the respondent in at least four criminal charges:
- Criminal Case Numbers 2004-3623 and 2004-3630 for attempted murder with arrest warrant issued by the late Judge Henry Arles of Regional Trial Court 6, Branch 61 , Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Dec. 1, 2004;
- CC No. 04-019 for murder, warrant issued by Judge Mario Trinidad of RTC-7 Branch 64 in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental on Dec. 13, 2004; and
- CC Nos. Number 04-020-C for murder and 04-021-C for attempted murder with warrant issued by Judge Rosendo Bandal, Jr. of RTC-7, Branch 64 in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental on March 11, 2004.
Due to the numerous cases filed against him, the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 in Central Visayas recommended Paragan’s inclusion in the PNP Directorate for Intelligence’s most wanted list.
Later on, his “wanted status” was elevated to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of the National Defense (DILG-DND) Joint Order on CNN/Terrorist Wanted Person with a P1,050,000 cash reward for his arrest.
But Saldo insisted that he’s not Paragan.
Saldo, who has two children, claimed to be an ordinary truck driver and has never been to Negros Island.
Saldo also insisted on his innocence in a chit-chat with Bulalacao who will retire tomorrow, June 27.
The Philippine Army earlier said that Paragan, who was believed to be active in the rebel movement between 2000 and 2004, was responsible for an incident involving a Ceres bus and ambush on their personnel.
Apparently, police and military operatives have relied on the testimony of a witness in arresting Saldo.
Operatives earlier claimed that Saldo went on hiatus from the rebel movement and has been staying in Dumalag for 10 years.
He used his original name in Dumalag where he worked for a businessman.
Saldo was a driver and an errand man for the unnamed business until his arrest on Sunday.
Police tracked down Saldo through a “witness” who identified him as Paragan.
During the press conference, the masked witness claimed to have known Saldo as Paragan.
In his affidavit signed June 24, 2019, Ben (real name withheld), claimed to be a son of a former rebel under Paragan’s command who surrendered but was killed by persons who identified themselves as NPA members.
The witness, who is from Negros Occidental, earlier identified Saldo as Paragan when the former was brought to Cuartero Police Station immediately after his arrest on Sunday.
RULE OF LAW
Captain Cenon Pancito III, Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division commander, said that the command subscribes to the rule of law.
“If there is doubt, then by all means, he should be released. We subscribe to the wisdom of the prosecutor and the court,” he said.
Pancito said they wanted Paragan to face the charges against him.