5 Laguna cops axed over abduction of ‘e-sabong’ agent
MANILA, Philippines — Five police officers accused of abducting an online cockfighting agent in Laguna province, one of 34 “e-sabong” enthusiasts missing since last year, have been dismissed from the service, the Philippine National Police said on Tuesday.
PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. signed the Dec. 9 order dismissing Lt. Henry Sasaluya, Master Sgt. Michel Claveria, Staff Sgt. Daryl Paghangaan, and Patrolmen Roy Navarete and Rigell Brosas, all previously assigned to the Laguna police intelligence unit.
The five were accused of kidnapping e-sabong “master agent” Ricardo “Jonjon” Lasco at his house in San Pablo City on Aug. 30, 2021.
“The swift resolution on the administrative action made against these erring personnel is a manifestation of the continuous internal cleansing being implemented in the PNP,” the PNP said in a statement.
The PNP’s Internal Affairs Service said there was substantial evidence to recommend the dismissal of the five policemen upon finding them guilty of grave misconduct and conduct unbecoming a police officer.
The administrative charges are separate from criminal complaints the men are facing.
In a Nov. 25 resolution made public on Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found sufficient basis to indict Paghangaan, Navarete and Brosas on charges of robbery, kidnapping and serious illegal detention. But Sasaluya and Claveria were cleared for lack of probable cause.
According to the DOJ, the prosecutors established that Lasco was forcibly taken from his residence in San Pablo City on Aug. 30, 2021, by a group of armed men.
Claiming to be agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, the men reportedly also took several valuables, amounting to over P10 million, from four women who were in Lasco’s house at the time.
It was the first to be resolved among several complaints filed by the PNP and the NBI, which are separately investigating the cases of the missing e-sabong operators and aficionados, most of whom are believed to have been abducted from cockfighting arenas in Manila, Laguna and Batangas in 2021.
Based on the complaint of Lasco’s relatives, the police officers “arrested” Lasco by virtue of a purported warrant of arrest for large-scale estafa or fraud.
The victim has not been found since.
The five dismissed officers are now under restrictive custody in the Calabarzon regional police headquarters at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, according to PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo.
“Once they receive the official copy of their dismissal order, the PNP will let go of them because the PNP no longer has jurisdiction over them,” she said.
“They really need to receive it officially so that at least they will be given the opportunity, as part of the due process, to appeal the recommended sanction against them,” Fajardo said.
On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the 34 missing persons should already be presumed dead after one year of disappearance.
The DOJ chief said the circumstances behind their disappearance did not “point to any possible return” of the victims.
“The presumption of death is strong already at this point,” he said, adding: “Because of the nature of the case, you don’t have a body of the person that is missing. And when you say missing, you might leave the court an impression that they’re still around, that they are just missing so they cannot be presumed dead yet.”
“But all circumstances are saying that they’re gone. They’re not coming back… there’s really no hope that they will return alive,” Remulla said.
The justice secretary also raised the possibility that “double jeopardy” may occur should the evidence be found insufficient as a result of presumption that the victims were still alive.
Under the law, double jeopardy means an accused cannot be charged more than once in court with the same crime.
“For example, if we file information and the evidence is not strong enough and the presumption is that they are alive, if they are acquitted, there will be double jeopardy even if we find additional evidence after,” Remulla said.
“That’s why we are careful in dealing with this topic and the presumption of death, I think, is necessary for us to be able to tackle this properly,” he added.
Remulla said he believes the families of the missing cockfighting enthusiasts had accepted the fate of their loved ones.
“What they are really looking for is justice. I know that they have accepted it. They only want peace and justice for their missing loved ones,” he said.