WE commiserate with Baltasar Saldo, 54, of Barangay Sto. Angel, Dumalag, Capiz who was paraded on June 24, 2019 by no less than Brigadier General John Bulalacao, Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 director, to the media and the public as a wanted ex-rebel leader facing a string of criminal cases .
Based on Bulalacao’s statement, Saldo also used the name Virgilio Paragan alias Hassan when he was allegedly active with the New People’s Army in Negros Island. He also carried a P1.050 million cash reward on his head.
Apparently, Bulalacao wanted to make Saldo’s arrest the icing on his retirement cake by June 27, 2019. Before that, he went around Western Visayas and preached to all police field units about the importance of protecting their reputation as police officers.
On Monday, Saldo’s “arrest” and presentation became Bulalacao’s final victorious act that unfurled in full fanfare and media glare. He hogged and hugged the limelight in a very serious bid to show to all and sundry what it is to be a cop of good reputation.
But come Monday evening, that reputation was reduced to tatters when it was learned that Saldo was not the criminal that Bulalacao and PRO-6 projected him to be. Relatives of Paragan in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental swore Saldo is not their kin and even the public prosecutor did not sign the affidavit of the witness that pointed to Saldo as Paragan, the ex-rebel charged for murder and frustrated murder in Negros.
Saldo was eventually released but the damage to his person has been done. And the usually talkative Bulalacao clammed up, with only the PRO-6 spokesperson taking the cudgels of answering for the brouhaha.
In a statement, Police Lt. Colonel Joem Malong, PRO-6 spokesperson, said Saldo’s case “is a normal occurrence in police operations.”
“If this is true, further validation of the statement of the witness who attended the press briefing should be done. Further legal processes should also be done. The release of the suspect by the fiscal (Kabankalan City prosecutor) is in order if he feels he still needs more evidence to put the arrested person to jail. I do not want also to incarcerate innocent individuals,” Lt. Col. Malong added.
How and why did this happen? Is it because of Bulalacao’s overzealousness to prove his worth? Was there failure of intelligence on the part of the PNP? Or is it because of the monetary reward involved?
In short, sorry na lang si Saldo?
How many other Baltasar Saldos escaped media attention before? Is this Divine Providence’s way of exposing similar cases that were shielded or hidden from public eyes?
What is clear now is that Saldo’s reputation is a wreck and he deserves redress and justice. In fact, he should demand for it. His case is one clear example of what happens if authorities get excited and forget due process and pure investigative work in exchange for the limelight.
We are not anymore surprised because Bulalacao has a penchant to fall for all kinds of information sent via text and Facebook messenger, especially during the recent elections. This time, however, that proclivity tainted what was supposed to be his graceful exit and turned it into a major booboo.
Worse, Saldo is now suffering from the extreme humiliation he experienced on Monday.