"SHE felt she was assaulted twice, victimized twice."
This was how Regional Prosecutor Jaime L. Umpa described the sentiment of a lady prosecutor who was attacked last week, then became a subject of a TV report that showed an anonymous interview claiming the incident may have been a lover's quarrel.
Prosecutor Irene Alejado-Meso, 34, is a mother of three and married to a physician. Two men attacked her inside her car outside her children's school in Barangay Macasandig last Tuesday.
"Nag-breakdown talaga si Fiscal Meso upon learning of the new item. She called me up and she sounded inconsolable," Prosecutor Umpa told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.
"She thought she was twice a victim-that she almost died in the incident and now her reputation is destroyed because of a news item she deemed irresponsible," Umpa said.
The news item-broadcast over ABS-CBN TV Patrol Northern Mindanao Friday-showed an anonymous interview of a person who claimed he witnessed the scuffle inside Meso's car. Based on what he witnessed, the man said the incident may have been a lover's quarrel.
Meso was appalled why the man's claim was given currency in the news report, Umpa said.
"It's as if a woman was savagely raped then a news reporter happened to stumble upon some random person in a police precinct who claimed the incident had been consensual-then the "consensual angle" became the lead story, overtaking the rape angle," Umpa said.
"She's (Meso) married. Her friends who watched the report on TV called her up. They thought another angle was shaping into the case-the love triangle angle, which is quite unspeakably revolting to her because she is a married woman," he added.
Umpa clarified he holds no ill feelings with the TV station. As Meso's superior, however, the prosecutor said it was his duty relay Meso's reactions about the news item "so that everyone can reflect on this incident and draw lessons from it."
ABS-CBN had no comment on this story.
On Tuesday, the National Bureau of Investigation in Region X (NBI-X) said the assault on Meso was connected to her work in the Office of Regional State Prosecutor, where she sits on several panels handling high-profile cases.
NBI-X stepped into the case after the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor (ORSP) expressed disappointment with the way the local police are handling the investigation.
Umpa underscored NBI's entry into the case, saying it needs "competent investigators to reassure government prosecutors that any danger they face in the performance of their duty is responded to resolutely."
The attack on Prosecutor Meso has brought alarm among the members of the prosecution, RSP Umpa said. A number of fiscals working under the ORSP have not reported to duty since the incident occurred out of fear, he added.
NBI-X Director Romulo G. Manapsal shared Umpa's view, saying "the incident should not be taken for granted because it affects not only to the victim but the entire prosecution bureau."
Umpa said they decided to enlist NBI's help into the case after City Police Director Benedicto B. Lopez said the incident may have been a carnapping case-not attempted kidnapping as the lady prosecutor believed it had been.
Umpa said it was unbecoming of Lopez to speculate on the carnapping angle, when the victim herself believed the two men had tried to abduct her, and the police investigation was still ongoing.
Umpa said the attempt to kidnap Meso appeared to have been planned.
"That the type and color of the two vehicles matched could have meant that the brains behind this foiled kidnapping had planned of this well. More likely, they sought and found a vehicle closely resembling theirs and copied the plate number," he said.
Aside from the drug and murder cases she's handling, Meso was a member of a panel that recommended criminal cases against the suspects in the cybersex den raided by authorities a year ago.
One of the suspected operators is a police officer assigned at Camp Crame (not Alagar, as earlier reported). (Annabelle L. Ricalde)