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7 Legazpi cops axed over EJK

By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY – Seven police officers in this city were ordered sacked after an inmate was found dead from bullet wounds in a grassy lot two days after his arrest on October 31. Relatives of the victims sought the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the killing of Michael Obogne, 29, following statements issued by the victim’s two companions who claimed to have survived the ordeal in the hands of the Legazpi police. The two survivors are now reportedly in the hands of a private group. Albay Police Provincial Director S/Supt. Antonino Cirujales ordered the relief of the 7 policemen led by Legazpi City Poice Chief PSupt. Eymard Gomez. The latter was replaced by former Legazpi police chief, Supt. Nilo Berdin on Saturday, Oct. 11. The names of the other six policemen ordered relieved from their posts were: PCI Baltazar Valenzuela, PO3 Regie Viñas, P02 Josef Balderama, PO2 Mark Thom Semeniano, PO1 Roland Arimado, and PO1 Ricky Bataller. According to documents obtained, the policemen led by one PO3 Vinas arrested at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening of Oct. 31 three persons for alleged theft in Barangay Pigcale, this city. The three suspects were brought to the Legazpi PNP station where they were identified as Ralph Estipona, 24, Michael Obogne, 29, and one Weng Briones, all of the neighboring Barangay San Roque. They were reportedly arrested while on a drinking session. On November 2 (All Souls Day), at around 3:00 p.m., Estipona, one of the suspects, personally showed up and reported to the Pigcale Barangay Hall the ordeal they suffered in the hands of the 6 Legazpi policemen the night of November 1, a day after their arrest. He said he and Obogne were ordered returned to jail despite having been declared officially released from police custody at 2:25 in the afternoon of Nov. 1 due to a complainant’s failure to file a complaint. In his barangay blotter report, Estipona said he and Obogne were herded in a black van with the police personnel on the night on Nov. 1, while their companion Weng Briones was in another black car. He said they were handcuffed with musking tapes over their mouths. Estipona said that after passing through Barangay Rawis on the way to the nearby town of Sto. Domingo in the first district of Albay, the policemen asked them to reveal names of thieves and robbers in their barangay. At that point, their black van maneuvered to a dark portion of the road where they were pushed and shot by the policemen, hitting Obogne but was able to run fast with him. Personnel at the Legazpi City Police were surprised when a woman identified as Edelyn Seveliano and claiming to be a wife of Michael Obogne dropped by at around 6:00 p.m. on Nov. 2, complaining that the man reported by ABS-CBN Patrol Bicol to have been found dead inside a grassy spot in Barangay Pintor in Polangui, Albay was Michael Obogne, her husband. He said Michael was identifiable by his body tattoo and the shirt and jacket that he was wearing when she last saw him in jail. In a two-page affidavit dated Nov. 8, P01 Ricky Bataller stated that he was the designated jailer on duty from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily at the Legazpi Police Station. Bataller said that when he reported on November 1, he was informed about the arrest of Estipona and Obogne on theft complaint. His affidavit, however, did not mention about, Briones, the allegedly third arrested person based on a warrant of arrest. Bataller said Estipona and Obogne were subjected to interrogation by P02 Josef Balderama and P01 Roland Paul Arimado at 10 a.m. and was returned back to their cell at around 11:00 a.m. of the same day. Bataller went on to state that in the afternoon of November 1, SPO3 Julios Romano told him to see Police Chief Inspector Baltazar Valenzuela, the head of the investigation and intelligence section, regarding the release of Estipona and Obogne. He said PCI Valenzuela confirmed to him the instruction to release Estipona and Obogne at 2:25 p.m. when the 18-hour reglamentary period should have lapsed for failure of a complainant to file a case. The police logbook shows that Estipona and Obogne were released from PNP custody at 2.25 p.m of Nov. 1 free from any harm and with the suspects’ signatures on their release papers. But Bataller said the two suspects were again returned to jail allegedly upon instruction of PCI Valenzuela for further investigation. Bataller said that at around 5:00 p.m. Valenzuela ordered him to bring Estipona and Obogne upstairs of the Legazpi Police Office where he turned them over to P02 Balderama who was accompanied by P02 Semeniano. Balderama and Semeniano are reportedly both investigation and intelligence operatives.

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