Link between woman’s slay, cop’s death probed
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — A 35-year-old woman who was allegedly robbed by 11 policemen and raped by their team leader was gunned down in this city on Monday afternoon.
Ritchie Nepomuceno was on Natalio Bacalso Avenue at 5 p.m. when she was shot in the head by one of two men on board a motorcycle.
Four hours later, Staff Sgt. Celso Colita, the officer whom she accused of raping her, was found dead with a bullet wound in the head inside the toilet of the police’s Regional Special Operations Group here.
Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, Central Visayas police director, has ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the region to look into these incidents and check whether the deaths were related.
Montejo also wanted to know why Colita had a gun when his service firearm had been taken by his superiors after he was relieved from his post at Sawang Calero police station.
Before Colita was found dead, Maj. Glenn Hife, chief of the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit in Central Visayas, said he interviewed the policeman about the slaying of Nepomuceno and his alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Colita, Hife said, did not answer his queries and instead asked permission to go to the toilet.
Hife said he later heard a gunshot from the direction of the toilet and found Colita lying there in a pool of blood.
Restricted to camp
Colita, along with 10 other policemen at Sawang Calero station, had been restricted to camp pending investigation of the complaint filed by Nepomuceno last month.
They were accused of robbery, arbitrary detention, grave coercion and grave threats in a complaint filed in the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly stealing Nepomuceno’s valuables when they raided her house on accusations of keeping unlicensed firearms.
Colita, the police team leader, was also charged with two counts of rape for allegedly molesting Nepomuceno, whom he took to a motel.
The policemen were relieved from their posts pending investigation.
Aside from Colita, also charged were Chief Master Sgt. Eric Edgar Ernia; Staff Sergeants Joseph Alcoseba and Michael Rhey Cabizares; and Corporals Emmanuel Martinez, Rochelito Mabulay, Ejill Ferrolino, Carlo Irizari, Junel Pedroza, John Carl Aceron and Georny Abrasado.
Maj. Eduard Sanchez, chief of Sawang Calero station, was spared from the charges but was relieved for command responsibility.
The complaint stemmed from a raid on Nepomuceno’s house in Barangay Tungkil, Minglanilla town, Cebu, on March 9.Nepomuceno had told investigators that the policemen did not present any warrant and took her valuables, including several pieces of jewelry.
The next day, she was taken to the police station but her arrest was not recorded in the blotter.
Around 1 p.m. of March 10, Colita’s group took Nepomuceno to several ATMs (automated teller machines) and forced her to withdraw P170,000 from her accounts.
Later, Colita took Nepomuceno to a motel in Barangay Mambaling where she was allegedly raped.
Nepomuceno was released at 5 p.m. on March 11.
But she decided to report her ordeal to the police’s Integrity Monitoring and Enhancement Group, which has the mandate to monitor rogue policemen.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Central Visayas, which is also investigating Nepomuceno’s accusations against the 11 policemen, said she had been receiving threats from Colita.
“Colita reportedly told her to watch out because he would come and get her wherever she was hiding,” said Leo Villarino, CHR Central Visayas chief investigator.
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