SO, the family of Nel Spencer Tiu, the boyfriend of Ashley Abad, the 19-year-old girl who died due to party drug overdose, hired the services of the controversial Manila-based lawyer Orlando Salatandre as their legal counsel. Salatandre, who is my kababayan from the province of Zamboanga Del Norte, gained local prominence when he was the chief legal counsel in the parricide case of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) supreme master Ruben Ecleo Jr., for the killing of Ecleo’s wife, Alona. Ecleo was convicted of the crime, but remains at large.
Interviewed by reporters, Salatandre challenged the police to file charges first against Tiu before they can arrest him. He said it would be better if the police would file the complaint as it will give his client the opportunity to answer all the allegations against him. “We will stick to the rule and follow the legal procedures,” the lawyer was quoted as saying. But I would like to remind Salatandre that “cooperation and arrest” are two different things. Let us not be too legalistic.
Earlier, the police announced that they will arrest Tiu and his companions if they still refuse to coordinate with the investigators. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte also ordered Tiu’s arrest after Abad’s parents sought the chief executive’s intervention. Well, being a lawyer and a former prosecutor, Duterte knows the legal procedures. Maybe, the President is just sending a message to Tiu and his parents that if they will still refuse to cooperate, the authorities or the government machinery can make their lives miserable. I think the President was serious in his statement.
Salatandre is just too legalistic. Well, we can’t also blame him because he wants to protect the rights and interest of his client. He wants that his client be charged first before he can be arrested and any move beyond this, is deemed illegal. I agree with him. A person can only be arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by a competent court. In a warrantless arrest, a person can only be arrested if he is about to commit a crime and authorities have prior knowledge about it or has just committed a crime and is a fugitive.
But as I pointed out in my column last Monday, there are many ways to skin a cat. Tiu will not be arrested in connection with Ashley’s death as there was no pending complaint. But government agents can make his life miserable. And that scenario would be worse than extending his cooperation to the police by “telling all” the circumstances surrounding Ashley’s death. Mas daghan ang maangin og mapagan unya anang maong sitwasyon. Ug bisan si Salatandre ma-among pa. You know what I mean. There have been a lot of mysterious killings nowadays even among government agents and most of these were attributed to “government-sponsored” killings.
In fairness to the police, before they were talking about the possible arrest of Tiu, what they were asking was only his and his friends’ cooperation. The latter were not even considered suspects or persons of interest. Tiu’s group was politely invited by investigators to shed light on what they knew about Ashley’s death as they were there when the incident happened. But why did they refuse to cooperate? Even now, Tiu can still cooperate with the police. It is not too late for him.
Salatandre has the legal basis that the police cannot arrest Tiu in connection with Ashley’s death. But Tiu can cooperate even without complaint. That is if his conscience is clear and he has nothing to do with Ashley’s death. Konsensiya ra unta niya ba. But where’s his conscience? A boyfriend is supposed to protect his girlfriend from any harm. I hope his conscience will bother him especially since we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day tomorrow, a day for lovers. I hope Nel will reminisce his sweet moments with Ashley tomorrow and soften his stand and change his mind.
He can even cooperate with Ashley’s family and confess to them everything that happened. He can turn into a state witness. That is if he is less guilty. Maybe by confessing, Ashley’s family will understand and forgive him and would still consider him as their ‘‘in-law” despite Ashley’s death. Dong Nel, maayo unta ug mopakita nimo ang kalag ni Ashley ug mo-greet nimo og Happy Valentine’s Day aron makonsensiya ka.