Justice delayed

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Friday, December 13, 2013

SUNSHINE Gregorio, former employee of Plantation Bay and one of the victims of that infamous shooting spree perpetrated by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 regular and civilian agents during a botched anti-drug operation texted and reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of that incident.

Sunshine, who is now Mrs. Suelto and had resigned from that world-class resort in Lapu-Lapu City, also expressed her frustration and disappointment over the development of the case filed after the incident. It is pending in one of the Regional Trial Courts (RTC) in Mandaue City.

The last thing I know is that the case was handled by Judge Agustin Vestil. But he has retired.

It was on the dawn of Dec. 13, 2002 when that incident happened.

Sunshine, together with Alfie Fernandez, Carlo Cajoles, Don Enable, Nenette Castilion and resort manager Michael Monsod, were onboard a Mitsubishi L-300 van. They came from the resort where they celebrated Monsod's birthday. Monsod was driving the van.

After dropping off Enable in Barangay Looc in Mandaue City, they passed by the city proper and were spotted by fully armed NBI agents who were staking out the area during the anti-drug operation.

Earlier, the NBI arrested a certain Emmylou Go Gimeno, an alleged drug dealer. She told the NBI that her main supplier, a certain Robert Gegremosa, was going to Mandaue that midnight to distribute drugs to their contacts. He would be onboard a Mitsubishi L-300 van.

When the resort employees passed by the area, they were flagged down by NBI agents who apparently thought the vehicle they were in was the one driven by Gegremosa. But Monsod did not stop as he thought that the armed men, who were not in uniform, were robbers. It was already around 2 a.m.

That started a 30-minute car chase that ended in Banilad, Cebu City. While chasing, the NBI continuously fired at the van. The vehicle was peppered with 73 bullets. Fortunately, all of those in the van survived despite the bullet wounds they sustained.

Sunshine was wounded in her left arm and in the back and had a slight wound in her forehead.

With the full support of their employer, the victims filed multiple homicide and murder charges against NBI regular agents Arnel Pura, Angelito Magno, Teodoro Saavedra, Danilo Garay and Rey Tumalon.

Some civilian confidential agents were included in the case and one of them was radio reporter Paul Lauro. Pura and Magno are still in the active service. Romulo Manapsal, who was then the NBI regional director, was sacked. But Manapsal was not directly involved in the operation.

The House committee on human rights headed by then Rep. Etta Rosales, upon the request of then Cebu City Reps. Raul del Mar and Tony Cuenco, conducted an inquiry into the incident. I testified in that inquiry on the status of the confidential agents after Manapsal denied having employed civilian agents. But nothing has been heard about the result of that inquiry.

Is this how our justice system works? How can aggrieved parties obtain justice if we have this kind of system? Yes, the victims have been able to move on after that tragic incident. But the scars are still there. The victims are willing to legally fight until justice is served. But why is the case not moving?

Were the accused able to obtain a Supreme Court order to stop the lower court from conducting further hearings? I doubt. What is also very lamentable is that the perpetrators are still in active service. They are still receiving salaries from the taxpayers.

They were not discharged for the grave crime they had committed.

Indeed, justice delayed is justice denied.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 14, 2013.


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