‘Erring’ cop should be disciplined

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


THE Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, through S/Supt. Erson Digal, chief of the operations and planning division (R3), has directed Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) Chief Petronelli Baldebrin to conduct an investigation into possible operational lapses committed by PO3 Brent Fulmaran, a policeman assigned at the Basak police station in Mandaue City, in a arresting a taxi driver who returned inside the newsroom of GMA 7 last Monday a high-end cell phone left by his passenger.

A team of investigators from the Mandaue police visited GMA 7 to get the statements of station personnel who witnessed the arrest of the driver and the conduct of Fulmaran.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 will also investigate the incident, that is, if the taxi driver files a complaint. However, Ariel Birao, driver of Downey taxi, is not keen on filing a complaint for fear of reprisal. Since this issue came out in the media, he has been receiving threats.

But before the investigation could commence, Baldebrin already defended his operative.

He said the act of Fulmaran was a legitimate operation. That is the problem with some of our police officers; they defend the questionable conduct of their men without ascertaining the facts of the case.

In a media forum last Wednesday, Baldebrin, who was still unaware of the issue, was asked by reporters about the incident. Before he answered, he called Insp. Genilo Veraque, police chief of the Basak police station. Apparently, he swallowed hook, line and sinker the version of Veraque, who is Fulmaran's superior. Veraque, in an earlier interview, also defended Fulmaran.

So we can expect the investigation to clear Fulmaran because his superiors already pre-judged the case in his favor. Maayo pamakungon ang ulo ning duha ka opisyal.

Birao was arrested and handcuffed by Fulmaran inside the GMA 7 newsroom last Monday while the driver was returning the Samsung cell phone unit (not an I-phone as earlier reported) left by his foreigner passenger, Nayef Mohammad, last Friday.

Mohammad boarded the taxi unit of Birao from Ayala mall to Mandaue City. Upon knowing that he left his cell phone, he had the incident blottered at the Basak police station. Fulmaran, an intelligence operative, received the complaint.

Birao said he was not able to return the unit immediately because he left for Toledo City since it was a weekend. But he informed the garage security guard that he found a cellular phone inside his vehicle. He even left his contact number.

Using another cell phone unit, Mohammad sent a text to his lost phone and offered cash reward if the driver turns over the cell phone. Fulmaran also texted the driver.

Birao, using his own cell phone as he does not know how to operate the Samsung unit, answered and promised to turn over the cell phone on Monday.

He went to the GMA 7 broadcast complex Monday afternoon and turned over the phone to the news department. GMA 7 personnel contacted the Arab national informing him that his lost unit was turned over by the driver. They also asked Birao to wait for the owner so there would be a proper turnover and for him to get the cash reward. The poor guy waited for several hours only to be arrested by Fulmaran, who escorted Mohammad.

Fulmaran was in civilian attire and was carrying a firearm. He did not even show courtesy by introducing himself as a policeman to the station security guards.

Varaque insisted that the action of Fulmaran was legitimate and cited paragraph 1, section 301 of the Revised Penal Code which states: “Any person who, having found lost property, shall fail to deliver the same to the local authorities or to its owner are liable for theft.”

If Birao was liable for theft for not returning the unit to the owner, why did the police not charge him for the crime? Why did they release him after he spent a night at the detention cell? Because they had no basis to charge him?

Aren't they liable for illegal arrest and detention? For me that was abuse of authority to the highest degree. Fulmaran should be disciplined, as he is an abusive policeman.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 18, 2014.

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