THE trial of seven officials of Barangay Ermita, Cebu City for their alleged refusal to cooperate with anti-narcotics agents in a raid in 2016 will continue.
The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas affirmed with finality its previous ruling to charge the village officials with violating Article 233 of the Revised Penal Code (refusal of assistance) before the Regional Trial Court.
“Observably, the issues raised by respondents are same as those raised in their counter-affidavit and position paper,” said Eileen Mae Lagat-Alde, graft investigation and prosecution officer, in her order.
In indicting the respondents, Alde 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 a 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 denied the allegations against him and called the PDEA officials “liars.” He said it was PDEA that had 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.
The anti-graft office earlier dismissed the criminal and administrative cases against Rupinta, following his death in an ambush last Nov. 23, 2017.
In the motion, the village officials said the charges against them are “too sweeping” and that there is no other evidence that any of them was approached to witness the inventory of the seized illegal drugs.
The respondents said that no PDEA agent requested them to witness the inventory of the seized items.
In denying the respondents’ motion, the ombudsman said the accused offered no new evidence that would warrant the reversal of their indictment.
“There is no need, therefore, to discuss and revisit the issues, being a mere rehash of what had already passed upon and resolved definitively in the assailed resolution and decision,” the ombudsman said. (GMD)