By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
SAN ESTEBAN, Ilocos Sur — Lawyer Anita Chauhan, regional director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Ilocos Region, ordered the PNP of this town to submit documents and pieces of evidence in their posssesion on the extra-judicial killing of Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg in 2005 to her office.
The CHR team dropped by this town’s PNP station March 19 after they visited the lone witness to the killing of Pepe in Barangay Apatot of this town.
Chauhan explained to this reporter that they may build the case based on the documents and evidence in the possesion of the local PNP.
Among the documents considered by the director were those in processes in coming up with the suspect’s sketch by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the photo gallery where the witness identified the alleged culprit in the person of Capt. Joel Castro.
She added that the move is to be done while the witness has not decided yet to fully cooperate with the law enforcement and their office.
Chauhan with her staff and the widow of Manegdeg visited the lone witness who earlier in the investigation retracted his sworn statement vital to the identification of the culprit and the resolution of a high-profile case of extra-judicial killing.
She claimed earlier that they can arrange for the protection of the witness if he was willing to avail of the government protection program. However, other lawyers believe that the witness is not qualified for the protection program as the complaint has failed to reach the court and therefore “there is no case to speak of.”
Genesis of the case
Police reports said that Manegdeg was shot dead before midnight on November 28, 2005 along the highway here after a tricycle driver – the witness – had brought him there to wait for a bus to Manila.
The suspect allegedly alighted from a van, drew his gun and when Manegdeg noticed this he attempted to ran away but was shot. Autopsy reports showed that his body registered 22 gun shot wounds.
Immediately, the PNP created Task Force Manegdeg to solve the case. Police claimed that with the support of the lone witness, they were able to make a cartographic sketch of the suspect who was identified from a photo in their gallery after.
With a photo and identity of the suspect, the police believed that the case could have been solved. But in a turn of events, the Provincial Prosecutor of this province dismissed the complaint in a resolution it issued on March 30, 2007 on the basis that the original statement of the witness submitted was a xerox copy which violates the rules on evidence.
The sworn statement categorically declared that the witness could not identify the armed person, and, the (witness) supplemental sworn statement was full of leading and suggestive questions and a sentence which was not contained in the original sworn statement.
The witness’ supplemental statement, which was a retraction of his original statement, was issued on March 7, 2007.
A human rights case
In the meeting with the lone witness, Director Chauhan and Dom-an, Manegdeg’s widow, appealed to the witness to give his support for the prosecution of the case.
Chauhan added they had classified Manegdeg’s killing as a human rights violation according to the commission’s criteria and policies.
For the successful prosecution of the case, enough evidence has to be put together to support the case. She said that the CHR can exercise its power to summon appropriate agencies needed in the build up of a case and finally help in its prosecution.# www.nordis.net