LEGAZPI CITY: The chief of police here and six other policemen were relieved from posts after an inmate was found dead from bullet wounds and believed to be victim of extrajudicial killing two days after his arrest on October 31.
Relatives of the victims sought the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the killing of Michael Obogne, 29, based on testimonies by two others who claimed to have survived the ordeal in the hands of the city police.
The two survivors are reportedly in the hands of a private group.
Albay Police provincial director, Senior Supt. Antonino Cirujales, sacked the police officers led by city police chief, Supt Eymard Gomez. He was succeeded by former Legazpi police chief Supt. Nilo Berdin.
According to documents obtained by The Manila Times, six policemen led by a certain Police Officer (PO)3 Viñas reportedly arrested on October 31 three suspected thieves in Barangay Pigcale identified as Ralph Estipona, 24; Michael Obogne, 29; and one Weng Briones of Barangay San Roque.
On November 2 at about 3 p.m., Estipona showed up and reported to Barangay Pigcale officials the ordeal they suffered in the hands of six policemen on the night of November 1. He said he and Obogne were ordered returned to jail despite having been declared officially released from police custody in the afternoon of November 1 over the complainant’s failure to file a complaint.
Estipona related that he and Obogne were handcuffed and gagged with tape and made to board a black van with the police officers on that night, while Briones was in another black car.
While travelling, the police asked them to reveal the names of thieves and robbers in their village. After a while, he noticed the car turned left to an unlighted curb road where they were pushed outside the vehicle and shot by the policemen hitting Obogne who also ran fast with him.
On November 2, a woman identified as Edelyn Seveliano claiming to be Obogne’s wife went to Police Station 6 and reported she saw her husband as the person on TV Patrol Bicol News Report who was found dead in a grassy area in Barangay Pintor, Polangui town.
Meanwhile, P01 Ricky Bataller, jail officer on duty at the police station, said he was informed about the arrest of Estipona and Obogne on the complaint of theft. His affidavit did not mention Briones.
He said the two suspects were interrogated by P02 Josef Balderama and P01 Roland Paul Arimado. In the afternoon of November 1, Senior Police Office (SPO) 3 Julios Romano told him to see Chief Insp. Baltazar Valenzuela, head of the investigation and intelligence section, regarding the release of Estipona and Obogne.
He said Valenzuela confirmed the instruction to release Estipona and Obogne at 2:25 p.m., which was the end of the 18 hours reglamentary period for failure of the complainant to file a case.
Bataller’s affidavit said at about 2:25 p.m., on the same day Estipona and Obogne were released from custody as reflected in the logbook, free from any harm and with the suspects’ signatures. But the two suspects, he added, were returned to jail upon instruction of Valenzuela allegedly for further investigation.
He said Valenzuela later ordered him to turn over Estipona and Obogne to Balderama who was then with P02 Mark Thom Semeniano. Balderama and Semeniano are both investigation and intelligence operatives.