By LLANESCA T. PANTI, GMA Integrated News
The Office of the Ombudsman has junked due to lack of merit complaints filed against at least 27 police officers who arrested participants of an activity calling for the immediate distribution of agrarian reform land in Hacienda Tinang in Tarlac .
In a 33-page resolution dated October 2, the Ombudsman said the arrest of Tinang 83 or participants of bungkalan was legal since the location of activity was managed by a private cooperative.
“From the foregoing, it can be inferred that respondents have sufficient basis to conduct an arrest, since the bungkalan activity was conducted on private property and sugarcane plants, regardless of value, were destroyed,” the anti-graft body said.
“Given that both parties have their respective versions of what transpired prior to the arrest, supported only by their respective statements, this Office has to rely on logic and the surrounding circumstances to arrive at this conclusion,” it added.
The decision came over a year after a Tarlac court, in June 2022, junked the charges filed by the police against the Tinang 83 for being “duplicitous” and for “failure to allege the essential facts constituting the particular kind of illegal assembly falling under the jurisdiction of the first-level court.”
But as far as the Ombudsman is concerned, the conduct of police officials during the incident falls under the presumption of regularity because “there is no independent evidence to support complainants’ claims.”
The allegations against the police officials include the following:
- the police officials failed to inform them of their rights and of the charges against them
- the police officials failed to subject them to medical examination, and
- the police officials interrogated them without their lawyers present.
“Per their (Tinang 83’s) narration, they were able to immediately contact their counsels and had refused to answer respondents’ questions. With this, it can be reasonably presumed that they were informed and made aware of their rights,” the Ombudsman said.
Further, the anti-graft body expressed doubts on Tinang 83’s accounts that they were trapped inside the kubol, that the police officials surrounded them, that the police pointed and cocked their guns at them, and that the police officials caused them injuries during the arrest.
“This significant event was not mentioned in their pleadings which, thus, casts doubt on its veracity. Complainants also alleged that the arrest was violent and that they sustained injuries as a result. However, there is nothing in the records to support such allegations,” it said.
“Considering that the administrative charges of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct, and oppression are anchored on the same allegations and evidence, then these should be dismissed,” the Ombudsman added.
In response, the complainants from Tinang 83’s ranks filed a motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman’s decision.
They maintained that the police officers involved in the arrest failed to inform them of the specific accusations against them.
The complainants argued that the police officials also did not provide them or their lawyers with copies of the Pinagsamang Reklamong Salaysay of the supposed officers from the Tinang cooperative managing the area where the bungkalan was held, as well as the Pinagsamang Sinumpaang Salaysay ng Pag-Aresto during the inquest proceedings.
“Complainants were forced to go through the proceedings without knowing the nature, circumstances, and cause of the accusations made against them. The complainants’ awareness of their rights does not exonerate the police from their refusal to read them their rights or inform them of the accusations made against them,” the motion for reconsideration dated October 4 read.
The complainants said that their counter arguments are supported by the June 2022 court ruling dismissing the malicious mischief and illegal assembly raps that the police filed against Tinang 83.
“The Court had dismissed the previous case of malicious mischief due to lack of evidence. It thus follows that since there was no malicious mischief and [illegal assembly] being committed, there was no basis for arresting us, more so the manner of the police officers involved in harassing us,” the complainants added.—AOL, GMA Integrated News