MANILA, Philippines – If the police officers in a viral photo of an EDSA robbery and kidnapping case seemed so brazen, it’s probably because two of them had done it before.
In an interview on Tuesday, September 9, National Police Commission (Napolcom) Vice Chairman and Executive Officer Eduardo Escueta said two of the 8 police officers involved in the incident have a pending case for a similar crime in 2011.
On September 1, 2014, a photo showing a van, a sedan, and armed men surrounding an SUV made the rounds on Twitter.
A week later, on September 8, the Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed the incident, saying at least 8 current and 1 dismissed cop from the La Loma police station in Quezon City were being hunted down for robbing and illegally detaining 2 men.
Back in 2011, two of those La Loma police – Senior Police Officer 1 Rameil Hachero and Police Officer 2 Jonathan Rodriguez – were charged for illegal arrest, detention, and extorting money from innocent victims.
Of the two, only Rodriguez is under police custody. Hachero has yet to report for work.
Escueta said based on a complaint filed before the Napolcom in 2011, the two cops stopped a vehicle, arrested its passengers, and brought them to the police station. Once in the La Loma police station, the two cops allegedly told their victims they would be sued for possession of illegal drugs.
The victims were eventually released, but only after their parents went to the station and paid off the two cops.
The 2014 EDSA incident shares a similar method: cops blocked a white Fortuner and arrested its passengers along EDSA in Mandaluyong City and brought them to the La Loma police station in Quezon City. The two victims were allegedly detained for over 7 hours but later released since no charges could be filed against them.
Chief Inspector Joseph de Vera, the most senior among the 9 cops in the 2014 incident, initially denied involvement in EDSA incident. He told police generals it was an anti-illegal drugs operations, but he failed to show a police report nor did he coordinate with the station’s unit that handles illegal drugs.
De Vera and his men are part of the station’s follow-up and investigative unit and are not authorized to conduct anti-illegal drugs operations. He later confessed to the crime after being shown the photo of the incident and other documents, police generals said.
The chief inspector underwent inquest proceedings on Monday, September 8. Only two of the 9 in the 2014 case are under custody as of posting. The La Loma station commander, meanwhile, was relieved due to command responsibility.
In the 2014 case, the cops allegedly took from the victims over P2 million meant for a business deal and close to P100,000 in ATM withdrawals.
Back to La Loma
Escueta said Hechero and Rodriguez were relieved in 2011 pending the resolution of the case. Relief in the PNP does not mean the cop is sacked. Rather, a police officer is either re-assigned to a different area, put on “floating” status, or detained by the PNP itself while the investigation is ongoing.
Reliefs are done to prevent the cop being investigated from influencing the case.
Escueta said the Napolcom is also pinpointing how and why Hachero and Rodriguez were able to return to La Loma even after their relief. He did not discount the possibility that the two were assigned to other police stations before eventually returning to La Loma.
“Aalamin namin iyan kung bakit meron nang indikasyon na itong mga pulis na ito sa La Loma ay nagkakaroon ng concerted effort to commit crime [pero] napabalik pa rin doon,” he said.
(We will find out why even if [Hachero and Rodriguez] seemed to have a concerted effort to commit crime, they still managed to return to La Loma.)
2011, 2014 incidents
Escueta explained the cases involving cops are either investigated and decided on by the Napolcom or the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS). Where the case goes after that depends on the victims.
The PNP chief may direct the IAS to conduct the investigation but victims have the option of choosing the Napolcom instead.
So far, the two victims in the EDSA incident have not filed a case before the Napolcom. PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima directed the Eastern Police Distric's IAS on Tuesday to start a probe into the incident.
Should the victims insist Napolcom take over the investigation, Escueta said the 2011 case will definitely be a factor.
“Magiging batayan ito sa pag-evaluate namin nitong present case sa EDSA na parang modus operandi nga nila,” said Escueta. (The 2011 case will be considered in our evaluation of the present EDSA case. It seems like this is their modus.)
The other suspects still at-large are:
But Quezon City Police District Richard Albano said every cop in the 100-strong La Loma police station would also be checked for possible involvement in the case. – Rappler.com