Best Christmas gift
LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET (Dec. 20) — Nine punks who were released today and their lawyers pointed out that lapses on police work caused innocent civilians unfathomable sufferings and police brutality in jail, as they appealed for an improved justice system to save the innocents from incarceration.
The nine were among 11 arrested on February this year by the Benguet Philippine National Police (PNP) for allegedly raiding a military detachment in Mankayan, Benguet, a mining town. Two of them, being minors, were earlier released.
Lawyer Pablito Sanidad, Free Legal Assistance Group chair and one of the lawyers who represented the punks, pointed out that the experience shows the need for the PNP to improve their work in order not to commit the same mistake in the future.
“Due to the lapses of police work, these nine punks had wasted 10 months of their youth in jail,” Sanidad added.
Rundren Lao, whose courage saved the 11 punks from possible extra-judicial execution, was happy with their release as it is timely with the Christmas season.
“I want to forget this horrible experience and face my new life,” adds Lao. He escaped from their Buguias captivity and on February 16, he told media and the Department of Social Welfare and Development about their torture in the hands of the police captors. He was turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation but was re-arrested soon after the expose.
Like his fellow punkista, Lao claimed that he had already forgiven their arresting officer due to the Christmas season. He asserted, however, that the PNP should improve their police work in order not to have innocent civilians suffer from police brutality.
Jefferson De La Rosa, among those released, urged the government to look after the welfare of some detainees and prisoners of Benguet as he claimed that many had been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. “The justice system should improve,” he said.
Regional Trial Court Judge Benigno Galacgac of Branch 63 ordered on December 19 the immediate release of the nine punks based on the motion to dismiss earlier filed by Provincial Prosecutor Felix Cabading.
Galacgac revealed that all supporting documents, including manifestations executed by the PNP, showed that the punks had nothing to do with the crimes of arson and homicide as alleged by the PNP. “There is no basis for their continuing detention that the punks should be released,” he added in an interview with Nordis today at the provincial jail.
Ordered release after a ten-month incarceration are: Rundren Berloize Lao, Jethro Villagracia, and Anderson Alonzo, all of Davao City; Arvie Nunez, Lucena City; Darwin Alagar, Urdaneta City; Ron Ron Pandino, Laguna; De La Rosa, Aldus Christian Manosa, and Neil Russel Balajadia; all of Pasig City.
Weak police work
While the punks’ lawyers welcomed the development, they urge for a better police work. Sanidad had taken the case pro-bono (free) with veteran human rights lawyers Jose Mencio Molintas, Rene Cortes, Noe Villanueva and other young lawyers.
It can be recalled that 11 punks had been arrested on February 14 by PNP based in Bugias town while they were on their way to Sagada, Mountain Province. After grueling torture, they were allegedly forced into admitting their participation in the NPA raid of a military camp in Mankayan, a northern town of this province.
The PNP filed homicide with arson against them. Two minor companions, the only girl Frencess Ann Bernal and Rey Lester Mendoza were ordered released by Judge Agapito Laoagan due to the Juvenile Justice Act which exempts minors from being jailed due to crimes they allegedly committed.
Some of the families and friends of the nine punks are happy over the release.
Mrs. Balajadia, the mother of Russel from Santolan, Pasig, claimed that she has a peace of mind now that her 24-year old son was released. She said Russel can possibly enroll in college. Russel finished a short course on computer, and the family is willing to finance his college education.
Dra. Lourdes Joves, whose son is also a punk and friend of the jailed punks, was also happy with the release. A resident of Tarlac, she served as a mother of the punks, particularly those from Davao, during their detention as she had been supporting their basic needs.
The nine punks in a statement expressed their gratitude for those who had extended help to them during their incarceration. Particularly, they expressed thanks to their lawyers, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, the health group Chestcore, the media, fellow punks, and others “who believed in our innocence and called for our immediate release.
“Today, we leave the Benguet Provincial Jail, the institution that served as our home for the past 10 months as better persons. We learned the virtues of forgiveness, patience and humility, and appreciated the values of sharing and caring. Like gems, we have been tempered by adversity,” their statement said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw for NORDIS