‘Terror’ of the highways

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


IF YOU pass by the impounding area of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug you will see big markings on their gate stating: “HPG Guardians of the Highways.” Now that its officers are charged for the gruesome murder of Atty. Noel Archival, shouldn’t the markings be changed to “Terror of the Highways”?

After almost two months of investigation, the special task group looking into the ambush-slay of Archival and his two aides and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 have filed a case for multiple murder and frustrated murder against ranking officers of HPG 7 before the provincial prosecutor's office yesterday.

Charged were Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, regional officer; Senior Insp. Eduardo Mara; Senior Insp. Joselito Lerion; SPO4 Edwin Galan, chief clerk; PO1 Alex Bacani; and seven other John Does. Except for Bacani and the John Does, the other respondents were also the subject of a search warrant by the NBI 7 when it raided the impounding area searching for the getaway vehicles used in the killing.

The criminal lawyer and his companions came from a hearing in Dumaguete City when the vehicle they were riding in was peppered with bullets by fully armed assailants in Barangay Corro, Dalaguete town last Feb. 18. Killed with Archival were his driver, Candido Miñoza, and aide Alejandro Jayme. Another aide, Paulo Cortez, survived by playing dead during the attack.

When the NBI raided HPG 7's impounding area, they confiscated the red Toyota Vios allegedly used in the ambush. The vehicle was identified by witnesses and through a CCTV footage taken in a nearby beach resort.

The vehicle also yielded empty shells that matched with the slugs recovered at the crime scene. Of all those charged, only Mara faced the media and denied any participation in the killings. Some of the accused have allegedly gone into hiding.

They even snubbed NBI's summons to submit their counter affidavits.

So what was the motive to kill Archival? The NBI said it was “revenge.” He filed criminal and administrative charges before the Ombudsman for the military, police and other law enforcements affairs against the accused for impounding the vehicle of his client even if it had complete records and documents.

It is a “Calvary” for any government official or employee to face a case before the anti-graft body. Naburyong siguro ang utok maong nanimawos.

I am not saying that those charged are really the perpetrators of the crime because they will still be given due process. But I think this is the closest angle of all the angles that surfaced in the early stage of the investigation. The ambush was well-funded, well-planned and well-executed. Only government agents can do it by using high-powered firearms.

Although the pieces of evidence NBI 7 presented are mostly circumstantial, it is enough to have the accused tried in court. How can HPG 7 explain the presence of that red Toyota Vios in the ambush when it was under its custody? Records by the HPG 7 custodian showed that the vehicle was driven out of the impounding area on the day Archival was ambushed. What a coincidence.

The HPG is one of the most corrupt units under the Philippine National Police (PNP).

It is even more powerful than the Land Transportation Office (LTO). It can apprehend and impound carnapped vehicles and vehicles with spurious documents and tampered machine and chassis numbers.

It can even impound legally owned vehicles if it wants to. In exchange for their release, HPG elements can extort money from the owners. That was what allegedly happened to Archival client.

The lawyer was the one who pushed his client to file charges against the HPG officers after they extorted money from the said client even if the vehicle possessed valid documents. To silence Archival, he was killed.

I hope his family can get justice with this latest development. Mahiluna na intawon ang kalag sa akong amigo.

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 16, 2014.

Opinion

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