THE chief of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) has ordered an investigation on the escort of Staff Sergeant Celso Colita, after learning that the latter had ventured outside the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas headquarters with a junior police officer hours before his accuser of wrongdoings was gunned down on Monday, April 19, 2021.
The logbook at the PRO-Central Visayas gate probed by reporters shows that Colita went out at 8:37 a.m. He was accompanied by Cpl. Christopher Lorete for a medical checkup.
The logbook also states that Colita and Lorete returned to the PRO-Central Visayas headquarters at 6 p.m., about 12 minutes after Ritchie Nepomuceno was shot to death by riding-in-tandem assailants.
Nepomuceno had lodged complaints against Colita and his nine fellow officers because as members of the Sawang Calero Police Station, they had allegedly arrested her without an arrest warrant and robbed her of 170,000.
Nepomuceno had said that she was also raped by Colita twice inside a motel.
The new information prompted CCPO Director Josefino Ligan to order the Pardo Police Station, which handles the Nepomuceno murder case, to open a new chapter in the investigation by inviting Lorete for questioning.
Ligan wants to know if Lorete had really escorted Colita to a medical checkup.
Colita and nine other police officers, not including Lorete, formerly assigned as anti-narcotics operatives at the Sawang Calero Police Station were under camp restriction as they were facing an administrative investigation over the allegations hurled against them by Nepomuceno.
This led the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-Central Visayas to question why Colita was allowed to leave the PRO 7 headquarters when he was currently being investigated for serious crimes.
Leo Villarino, CHR-Central Visayas chief investigator, said if Colita wanted a medical checkup, he could have requested a doctor to visit the camp.
Ligan said a police officer under camp restriction is not allowed to go outside the camp very easily; however, the police officer, if he has an urgent task that he must fulfill, may go outside the camp with permission from his superior.
He said a police officer under camp restriction is not a prisoner, and he is allowed to join the flag-raising activity.
For Villarino, allowing Colita to go out of the PRO-Central Visayas headquarters creates the possibility that he could be involved in the death of Nepomuceno.
The CHR investigator, however, said his statement is not conclusive; there is still no hard evidence to identify the persons behind Nepomuceno’s death.
Ligan said there is a need to conduct a thorough investigation.
The police official said they are waiting for the results of the ballistic examination on the firearm used by Colita when he reportedly took his own life hours after Nepomuceno’s killing.
The results, he said, would determine if it was the same gun used in killing Nepomuceno, who the police said was involved in the illegal drug trade as she was a lover of a jailed big-time drug personality.
The results from the crime laboratory’s ballistic examination usually come out two weeks after the day it received the firearm in question.
Ligan said his investigators have found two security cameras from establishments near the site where Nepomuceno was shot to death. But the devices, he said, were damaged.
Investigators, said Ligan, will look for other security cameras.
Villarino said he cannot blame the public for their suspicions against the police, which presented several theories and divulged Nepomuceno’s involvement in the illegal drug trade as a mistress of a jailed drug personality.
“The more we bring more angles, the more we need to conduct an investigation,” he said.
Nepomuceno reportedly told the police that she had wanted to end her relationship with the jailed drug personality, but he threatened to kill her if she would do so.
“If this case is related to the love triangle, but the evidence is yet to be searched, then that remains a theory. What is clear before the eyes of the police is the logbook entry that Colita was allowed to go out of the camp,” said Villarino.
He said the logbook entry as a piece of evidence needs to be pursued and the police must not look for another angle without any hard evidence.
Villarino added that the police should conduct an investigation on Colita’s death and not sway the public opinion with theories.
To also give justice to the death of Colita, Villarino said the police should conduct an investigation for their fellow officer and find out if he was involved in the killing of Nepomuceno.
As for the CHR-Central Visayas, Villarino said they will continue their investigation of the police officers formerly assigned at the Sawang Calero Police Station as there are two other complainants. (AYB, KFD)