Pen civilians charge cops with illegal arrest
DILG’s Ronnie Puno shoves it on people’s faces:
by Peter Tabingo
Criminal and administrative complaints were filed yesterday against top PNP officials in connection with the arrest and detention of civilians during the Manila Peninsula standoff last November 29.
The three-page complaint filed before the Ombudsman by lawyers JV Bautista and Argee Guevarra, “running priest” Robert Reyes, and Navy Capt. (ret.) Julian Advincula named Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, and Director Asher Dolina, chief of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
The four said their arrest and subsequent detention for 14 days was illegal in the absence of any court warrant.
“Inaresto kami nang walang kasalanan. They did not even know what case to file against us. They failed to cite the charge in their affidavit of arrest. There was no warrant of arrest against us but we were detained for 14 days just for being in Manila Peninsula,” Bautista said.
The four and 14 other civilians involved in the standoff, led by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, were charged with rebellion by the justice department. Last week, a Makati court hearing the case dismissed the charges for lack of probable cause and ordered the release of the civilians from the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Four of the civilians – Guingona, former UP president Francisco Nemenzo, Infanta Bishop Julio Labayen, and actress-scriptwriter Bibeth Orteza – were not detained for humanitarian considerations.
Reyes said he was handcuffed with Labayen and they were subjected to insults by Barias upon being taken on board a police bus from the hotel to the NCRPO headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.
“Bishop Labayen is already 81 years old and had difficulty walking. Vice President Guingona is 79 years old. There was no need to handcuff either of them but they were treated like criminals. My handcuff was so tight that my wrists nearly bled,” he said.
Reyes said he saw Barias roughly twisting the arms of handcuffed Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who led the standoff, while pushing the lawmaker down with his elbow and challenging him with, “Complaining, are you complaining?”
Reyes also quoted Barias as telling him: “Father Reyes, I am a practicing Catholic and you are a disgrace to the Catholic Church.”
“I have met many directors of NCRPO in my various advocacies. Every single one, save Barias, was a gentleman,” Reyes said.
Bautista and Guevarra said the other civilians would file separate complaints.
The two lawyers voiced anger over the declaration of PNP chief Avelino Razon hailing Barias and Dolina as heroes for making the arrests.
“Maybe we should include General Razon in our complaint under the principle of command responsibility,” Bautista said.
The police also received flak for arresting and handcuffing around 50 media men who covered the standoff. The media practitioners were released after a few hours on orders of President Arroyo.
Razon and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno conferred the Medalya ng Kabayanihan on Barias, Dolina, Chief Supt. Luizo Ticman, head of the Southern Police District, and 20 uniformed personnel for their roles in ending the standoff and in solving the Batasan bombing last November 13.
Also awarded for exceptional courage and leadership during the standoff was Chief Supt. Leocadio Santiago Jr., chief of the PNP Special Action Force.
“I think these awards are a message to our officers and men in the PNP that they did the right thing and they must continue to exercise their duties the way they have. We are proud of them no matter what anyone says… it’s easy to criticize after the fact,” Puno said.
Sen. Benigno Aquino III said the way government assault teams violated their own standard operating procedure during the Peninsula incident could give credence to the alleged slay plot against Trillanes.
“Based on their SOP, you should not give a deadline and (should) know first the exact location of the enemy and know how many they are,” Aquino said in an interview.
“Bakit ina-assault kaagad na hindi ka pa ready? Di mo alam kung ilan kalaban? Bakit ka pa susugod?” he added.
Barias gave a 3 p.m. deadline for Trillanes and his group to surrender. The surrender came about four hours later.
“Maraming disadvantages yung pagkilos. There was haste in the operation as if kailangan huwag abutin ng gabi,” Aquino said.
“Parang there was a subtle effort to provoke those who are inside and make them fire back,” Aquino said.– With Raymond Africa and Dennis Gadil