The Department of Justice (DoJ) has formed a seven-man panel of prosecutors to handle the criminal case against the so-called ninja cops who were allegedly involved in the reselling of seized illegal drugs.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued Department Order 969 dated 17 February 2020 that formed the panel of prosecutors.
Named were Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Alexander Suarez and Assistant State Prosecutors Josie Christina Dugay, Gino Paolo Santiago, Ethel Suril and Alyssa Zapata as members of the panel.
They will be the ones handling the prosecution of the cases for drug violations and other charges before the San Fernando, Pampanga regional trial court against the 12 police officers over alleged anomalies in a 2013 anti-drug raid in the province.
This developed even as Malacañang, in a related story, said it understands if controversial Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido has any reason to suspect If any from the government or even the Philippine National Police (PNP) wants him dead.
In a text message to reporters, Chief presidential Legal Counsel and Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the remark after Espenido was quoted as saying that there are those who might want to see him dead following his inclusion in the government’s drugs watch list.
“If that is Col. Espenido’s fear, we can not stop him such apprehension/he must have some reasons,” Panelo said.
“(However) PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) will not allow any harm to anyone outside of legal processes and methods sanctioned by law,” he added.
The so-called “ninja cops” were indicted after a panel of prosecutors chaired by Santos found probable cause to the charges against them.
A re-investigation was conducted by the DoJ after the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed the complaint.
Records showed an anti-illegal drug operations was conducted in Mexico, Pampanga of a police team led by Maj. Rodney Baloyo IV which was supposed to have arrested Johnson Lee a suspected foreign drug trader.
Twelve police officers were charged for violation of Republic Act 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, particularly, Section 27, Article II for misappropriation, misapplication or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs; Section 29, Article II, planting of evidence; and Section 92, Article XI, delay and bungling in the prosecution of drugs cases.
Also included in the charge sheet are P/Insp. Joven Bagnot de Guzman Jr.; Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) Jules Lacap Maniago; SPO1 Donald Castro Roque; SPO1 Ronald Bayas Santos; SPO1 Rommel Muñoz Vital; SPO1 Alcindor Mangiduyos Tinio; PO3 Dindo Singian Dizon; PO3 Gilbert Angeles de Vera; PO3 Romeo Encarnacio Guerrero Jr.; SPO1 Eligio Dayos Valeroso; and SPO1 Dante Mercado Dizon.
They were also charged with qualified bribery under the Revised Penal Code.
Guerrero and Santos on the other hand were also charged with violating regulations issued by the Dangerous Drugs Board regarding the chain of custody of evidence; falsification by a public officer against Baloyo who made untruthful statements in his spot report and progress report regarding the operation; and false testimony and perjury in solemn affirmation against Santos and Guerrero who made untruthful statements in their affidavit of arrest against Chinese national Ding Wenkun.
A probe by the DoJ panel found that the 12 accused policemen misappropriated drugs when they declared that only 36.60 kilograms of shabu were seized during their operations.
This runs counter to the police investigation that some 200 kilos of shabu were recovered in the said anti-drug operations in Pampanga.
Likewise, the cash money the erring policemen declared was only P300,000 which is way below the P10 million they recovered.
One Ding Wenkun was also illegally arrested by the team of policemen instead of Lee to whom they seized the illegal drugs and also imputed to Wenkun the illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs though it should be Lee that should be charged.
Former PNP chief Oscar Albayalde was also charged of graft in connection with the said drug raid of his former men.
Malacañang earlier expressed belief that Espenido was a victim of the PNP’s own intelligence gathering as there are some in the police organization who may be angry at him the reason why he was included in their drug’s watch list.
Panelo made the remark even as Espenido himself blamed “failure of intelligence” on why he was included in the drugs list.
“Could be true, because the President trust him. It’s not unexpected that there may be some flaws in intelligence gathering,” Panelo told reporters.
“That happens. Sometimes they’re even intentional, you are being fed with the wrong info coming from those who are against a particular officer and if it gets into the system, lalabas ‘yun (that will come out),” he added.
Panelo said those who has an axe to grind against Espenido may have intentionally put his name to the drugs list to destroy his image and reputation.
with Francis T. Wakefield