SEVEN officials of Barangay Ermita, Cebu City will face trial for their alleged refusal to cooperate with anti-narcotics agents in a raid in 2016.
Eileen Mae Lagat-Alde, graft investigation and prosecution officer, found evidence to charge the village officials with violating Art. 233 of the Revised Penal Code (refusal of assistance) before the Regional Trial Court. She said they “maliciously failed to heed the demand of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 7 (PDEA) for any of them to witness the conduct of physical inventory, which resulted in serious damage to public interest.”
In January 2017, Deputy Ombudsman Paul Elmer Clemente suspended the late Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta and seven councilors for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, over the same incident.
The suspended councilors were Marky Rizaldy Miral, Antonieto Flores, Ryan Jay Rosas, Alio Tamundo, Domingo Ando, Maria Bianghug, and Wilbert Flores.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed by PDEA 7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz, who accused the officials of refusing to witness the inventory of seized items during their operation that yielded P800,000 worth of shabu last Nov. 18, 2016.
PDEA had implemented a search warrant against Richard Cañete and Josephine Cuyno in Sitio Bato, Ermita. In his affidavit, Ruiz said that his team arrested Cañete in the drug den along with 13 other drug users and visitors.
Cuyno, the suspected drug den operator, was not present when the warrant was served. The PDEA 7 operatives went to Ermita barangay hall to coordinate with barangay tanods.
They also asked Rupinta or any member of the council to witness the search and inventory of the confiscated shabu. Ruiz said that the operatives waited for Rupinta or any councilor for about two hours but no one showed up.
Rupinta had denied the allegations against him and called the PDEA officials “liars.” He said it was PDEA that failed to coordinate with the barangay. He also said that PDEA used to coordinate with them in the past five anti-drug operations in their village but it was only last November 2016 when the agency did not approach them.
He also said that the barangay workers offered to help but PDEA personnel rejected them.
In indicting the village officials, the ombudsman said: “This office cannot allow respondents to elude liability simply by buying their defenses on lack of coordination and knowledge of the ongoing operation.”
On the other hand, the anti-graft office dismissed the criminal and administrative cases against Rupinta, following his death in an ambush last Nov. 23, 2017. (GMD)