Three alleged members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, linked to the murder of Kabankalan Regional Trial Court Judge Henry Arles have been arrested by National Bureau of Investigation agents for illegal possession of firearms, NBI Bacolod head Ferdinand Lavin confirmed yesterday.
The three identified as Jessie Daguia, Alejandro Capunong and Eddie Fortunado, have asked to be placed under their protective custody and have been brought by the NBI to Manila for safekeeping, Lavin said.
Relatives of the three on Monday, and yesterday, sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights to determine their whereabouts.
“We did not abduct these people, we arrested them for illegal possession of firearms…we did not torture them, if that is the nature of the complaint lodged before the CHR,” Lavin said.
“All three sought protective custody,” and their cooperation and turning state witnesses is under consideration, he said.
“Much as I do not want dwell into the merits of the Arles case because this is under serious investigation, it only goes to show that these people fear for their lives…for their safety,” he said.
The appearances of the arrested men matched three of the five facial sketches of the suspects in the Arles slay as described by witnesses, that were released by the NBI and police earlier, he added.
Lavin said charges for illegal possession of firearms have been filed against the three before the Negros Occidental Prosecutor’s Office for illegal possession of firearms. NBI agents caught the three in flagrante delicto, or red-handed, with two .45 caliber pistols and a .38 caliber revolver, in arrests made on June 23 and 27 in Bacolod City, Lavin said.
Lavin said Justice Secretary Laila de Lima has been monitoring their investigation into the killing of Arles and is very appreciative and supportive of what the NBI has done.
Arles was driving home when he was assassinated in Ilog town, Negros Occidental, on April 24.
The NBI probe into the participation of the three in the Arles murder “confirms my statement that, given another month, we will be able to wrap up this investigation,” Lavin added.
“We haven’t filed a case yet, (and) as soon as wrap up the investigation we would like to send a message to the people of Negros Occidental that your law enforcement authorities are very much concerned about the criminalities in the area, that we would like to tell one and all no matter who is behind any criminality, your law enforcement authorities will be there to help you,” he said.
Asked if the killing of Arles was linked to the assassination of Ilog Councilor Antonio “Karem” Gequillana Jr. in Bacolod on July 27 last year, Lavin said “Sorry I cannot comment on that at the moment”.
SAFEKEEPING IN MANILA
The three were brought to Manila where they are being kept in three separate areas on instructions of NBI authorities to also ensure the safety of the NBI Bacolod’s employees and properties, and also the public who go to the office, Lavin said.
He said allegations hurled against the NBI are to be expected with the arrest of the three. “When you do something good, when you are in the thick of the investigation, some plots or ploys may come out to either derail us from the main investigation, or…discredit the investigation being conducted by the NBI,” he said.
Lavin said he would not be surprised if trumped-up charges are filed against the NBI to get them off focus and off track in their investigation. We will not be cowed, the bottom line, is a judge was killed and we have to get to the bottom of it, he said.
Lavin said that while the three were arrested by the NBI on June 23 and 27 yet, not a single member of their family came forward to ask about their whereabouts within a week after their disappearance.
And then a niece surfaced on Monday. Why only now? he asked.
“Normally if a relative is missing in the first week you would already be hell bent looking for your relative,” he said.
Lavin said the relatives of the three were informed of their whereabouts.
He also said that the three were not tortured as alleged by some. When they were brought to the prosecutor for the filing of the illegal possession of firearms charges, it would have been evident, he said. The three could also have told the prosecutor that they were being tortured, he said.
The three have been subjected to medical tests and are represented by a lawyer whose name he withheld for security purposes, Lavin said.
He also said the three, even if they are members of the RPA-ABB, are not free to move around with firearms, especially out of the protected area covered by the peace agreement.
“Their actions were not in furtherance of their political ideology or belief. If ever the three were involved in the killing of the judge, it was a paid hit, a criminal activity outside their affiliation with the RPA-ABB,” Lavin added.
He said recent moves to determine the whereabouts of the three may have been manipulated by people behind the Arles slay. “They have to do something to know exactly where we are in investigation,” Lavin said.
A niece of Daguia, whose name was withheld, went to the NBI Monday to file a complaint that he and his two companions had been abducted.
Yesterday Dioniso Pat and two women who said they were the mothers of Capunong and Fortunado also went to the CHR in Bacolod to seek its help in locating the three men in the custody of the NBI.
Pat of Barangay Talacdan Cauayan, said he and the three men arrested by the NBI were RPA-ABB members.
He said the three men have been missing for a month now and have not communicated with their families as their cellular phones had been taken away from them.
Pat said he did not believe the three whose names are on the list of RPA-ABB members entering into a peace agreement with the government had anything to do with the murder of Arles.
Jennelyn Capunong said her son, Alejandro, who is a fish vendor has been gone since June and she does not know why he was brought to Manila by the NBI. I want them to produce my son so I can see if he is all right, she said.
She said the last time the wife of her son from Barangay Tabo, Ilog, saw him was on June 22. He left her P30 and said he was going to Bacolod but he did not return, she said.
Alejandro’s wife is pregnant and they have a three-year-old daughter and are in dire need of help, she said.
Tessa Fortunado said her son, Eddie, of Barangay Tampalon, Kabankalan, and a tricycle driver, has been gone since June 23 and they want to know if he is safe, that is why they have gone to the CHR.
We want to know how he is and where he is, she said.*CPG