Bacolod chief Ferdinand Lavin of the National Bureau of Investigation yesterday testified that Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade member Eddie Fortunado, a respondent in the case for the murder of Judge Henry Arles, was not forcibly abducted, harmed and illegally detained by the NBI.
Lavin testified at the resumption of the hearing of a petition for a Writ of Amparo filed by Fortunado’s mother, Tessa, before Judge Fernando Elumba, Bacolod Regional Trial Court Branch 42, to compel the NBI to produce her son.
On August 22, Eddie Fortunado told the Bacolod court he was tortured into admitting that he participated in the murder of Arles, and claimed he did not willingly seek the NBI’s protective custody.
But Lavin told the court Fortunado had given the NBI a handwritten request done in the presence of his lawyer, Ana Marie Palermo, asking for protective custody, out of fear for his security should he leave NBI protection.
The NBI has not received any document from Fortunado stating that Palermo is no longer his lawyer, and that he no longer wants to be under the NBI protective custody, so his security remains the NBI’s responsibility, Lavin told the media.
Fortunado is now under NBI custody in Manila.
Romeo Subaldo, lawyer for Tessa Fortunado, asked why his client’s son remained under NBI detention despite the fact that no case had been filed against him in court yet, and no warrant of arrest has been issued against him.
He noted that the murder complaint against Fortunado is pending before the Department of Justice, while the illegal possession of firearm charges is pending before the Negros Occidental Prosecutor’s Office.
Lavin told the court that he was ordered by Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for regional operations, to conduct a parallel investigation into the murder of Arles in Ilog town on April 24.
Lavin also presented the affidavits of 14 witnesses that will place the accused in the Arles murder, including Fortunado, at the crime scene. The witnesses will testify to the presence of the accused at the hit zone in Ilog, at the court house in Kabankalan where they conducted a surveillance on the judge, and at a pizza house where the group converged an hour after the killing, he added.
Lavin denied the claim of Eddie Fortunado that the NBI arrested him in Binalbagan town on June 27, saying he was merely taken into NBI custody.
He said Fortunado was transferred to the NBI Manila because his security, along with his two other co-accused, was compromised at the NBI office in Bacolod that had received threats.
Fortunado, on arrival at the NBI Manila, was examined by Dr. Roberto San Diego, who found that he was free of any physical injury, Lavin told the court.
Subaldo asked why the NBI had only filed the complaint for illegal possession of a firearm against Fortunado after his mother had filed the petition for a Writ of Amparo.
Lavin said they had to wait for a certification from the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division that the gun was unlicensed.
Lawyer Ormil Go of the Solicitor General’s Office told the court that, aside from Lavin, they have three more witnesses to present.
Agent Henry Arellano will be presented at the resumption of the hearing this afternoon, and Dr. San Diego and the head of the NBI Manila detention center at future hearings.
Subaldo asked that Eddie Fortunado be allowed to attend the hearings to be given a chance to hear what the witnesses are saying, but Go opposed the request.
Elumba said the request will be resolved in today’s hearing.
Meanwhile, Lavin refused to comment on the statement of lawyer Frank Britanico that the family of Judge Arles will ask the DOJ to include Negros Occidental Vice Governor Genaro Alvarez Jr., Cauayan Vice Mayor Jerry Tabujara, and RPA-ABB leader Rustom Puro as additional respondents in a complaint filed for the judge’s murder, based on the testimony of a witness identified only as Honeybee.
Lavin told the media he did not want to comment on that because he has not seen the affidavit of Honeybee, who was not among the witnesses included in the NBI’s original complaint.*CPG