JUSTICE Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla doused on Tuesday any hopes to the families of the more than 30 sabungeros, or cockfighting aficionados, who have been missing since 2021 that they are still alive, saying that they should all be presumed dead.”
The circumstances of all of them are the same…There’s really no hope that they will return alive,” Remulla said over a radio broadcast interview.
Remulla said all the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the sabungeros would indicate strong possibility that they would not be returning to their loved ones.
“In fact, I wouldn’t even want to call them anymore missing sabungeros, but probably dead sabungeros. That…might be a more precise term to describe these people,” Remulla added.
Remulla earlier met with the families of the sabungeros and assured them that the government, particularly the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) would continue its probe into the disappearances.
On Monday, the DOJ indicted three police officers for robbery and kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of Ricardo Lasco in Laguna in August 2021.
The DOJ identified the policemen as Police Staff Sergeant Daryl Paghangaan and Patrolmen Roy Navarete and Rigel Brosas.
The DOJ found probable cause to indict the three after they were positively identified by the relatives of the victim during the preliminary investigation.
Investigation showed that a group of armed men barged into Lasco’s residence at CG Brion Subdivision, Barangay San Lucas in San Pablo City, Laguna, on August 30, 2021, and arrested him for alleged large-scale estafa.
The complainants further alleged that the armed men introduced themselves as operatives of the NBI.
Lasco has been missing for more than a year now.
Remulla said he is set to hold another dialogue with the families of the sabungeros on January 11, 2023.
When asked if investigators already have a lead as to the identity of the mastermind of these disappearances, Remulla admitted that the government is still facing a blank wall on the matter.
“We will point to the mastermind as long as there is evidence already. We cannot just put blame on people without evidence,” Remulla stressed.
PNP structural changes proposed
Meanwhile, Remulla is pushing for the transfer of the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) from the Philippine National Police to the control of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to boost the fight against erring cops.
He said there is a need for structural changes in the PNP to address such problems.
“Actually, I have already talked to the President and Secretary [Benjamin] Abalos [Jr.]. I also discussed the matter with [House] Speaker [Martin] Romualdez that probably the internal affairs unit of the PNP should be outside the PNP structure and must be placed in the hands of the DILG Secretary and the latter should as well have a say in personnel movement,” the DOJ chief added.
Remulla noted that police organizations in other countries adapt to the same set-up he is proposing.
“The Internal Affairs Office has to be a very strong unit with its own budget and not under the chief of the PNP,” Remulla explained.
He noted that IAS counterparts in other countries are feared by police scalawags as they are independent from the police organization.
Remulla further explained that putting the IAS outside of the PNP structure might end the so-called code of silence among policemen when their colleagues get involved in an anomaly.
But the DOj Secretary admitted that an amendment of the law creating the PNP is needed before such proposal can be implemented.
“Structurally we need to institute changes in the PNP through the amendment of the PNP law,” he said.
“That’s the only hope we have so that we can check the abuses of the PNP,” he added.
The IAS serves as the PNP’s institutional watchdog in charge of disciplining, monitoring and investigating and adjudicating administrative cases of erring PNP personnel.
The IAS is under the direct supervision of the chief PNP, thus, all its recommendations are subject to his automatic review and approval.
Azurin signs dismissal order for 5 cops
IN a related development Camp Crame announced that PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has signed the dismissal order from the service of the five policemen allegedly involved in the case of a missing e-sabong master agent in Laguna last year.
PNP Spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo told reporters in an interview that Azurin has signed the dismissal order against the five cops, based on the recommendation from the IAS that has found substantial evidence on the administrative charges filed against policemen Paghangaan, Navarete, Henry Sasaluya, Michael Claveria and Brosas over the alleged kidnapping of Lasco, an e-sabong master agent who was abducted from his residence in San Pedro Laguna in 2021.
She said these policemen are currently under restrictive custody at the Calabarzon regional police headquarters.
“Once they receive the official copy of their dismissal order, then the PNP will let go of them because the PNP has no jurisdiction over them. They really need to receive it officially so that at least they will be given the opportunity, as part of the due process to appeal the recommended penalty to them,” said Fajardo in Filipino. With Glen Jacob Jose