PNP: Ex-cops tagged in abduction of ‘e-sabong’ agent may stand state witnesses | Inquirer News

PNP: Ex-cops tagged in abduction of ‘e-sabong’ agent may stand state witnesses

/ 04:05 PM January 23, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — The three dismissed police officers who recently surrendered to authorities after they were tagged in the 2021 abduction of an online cockfighting (e-sabong) agent may qualify as state witnesses if their involvement in the case is determined to be negligible, said Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr.

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Azurin confirmed on Monday that former Staff Sergeant Daryl Paghangaan and Patrolmen Rigel Brosas and Roy Navarete — all charged with robbery, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention related to the disappearance of e-sabong “master agent” Ricardo Lasco — are now under police custody after they surrendered to the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group.

“We’re looking at a good breakthrough, especially if they are going to cooperate because online cockfighting has been a problem that we have been investigating for a long time.  I hope that these policemen will really cooperate and tell us what really happened,” he said, speaking in a mix of English and Filipino.

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Azurin then appealed for the surrendered ex-policemen to cooperate in investigating Lasco’s disappearance.

When asked about what the PNP can offer to the suspects in return, the country’s top cop said: “The only assurance that we can give them siguro is if we can see na medyo lesser naman ang kanilang participation (if they don’t have too much involvement in the crime), then we can course them through the witness protection program [WPP], and it will be the WPP who will be evaluating if they are qualified to be protected under the WPP.”

Azurin then vowed that the PNP would provide for the suspects’ families should they need security.

Two other dismissed police officers — Lt. Henry Sasaluya and Master Sergeant Michel Claveria — were likewise accused of kidnapping Lasco in his home in San Pablo City on Aug. 30, 2021.

But only Brosas, Paghangaan, and Navarete were indicted by an investigating panel of the Department of Justice, while Sasaluya and Claveria were cleared for lack of probable cause.

READ: 5 Laguna cops axed over abduction of ‘e-sabong’ agent

Azurin, however, clarified that this does not mean they are cleared of administrative liability.

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“Doon sa administrative case, na-dismiss din sila. Kasama sila doon sa lima na na-dismiss, so of course, they can always ask for an appeal using iyong criminal records kung saan na-dismiss iyong kaso nila, and the PNP would see it. They will be reconsidered for a real statement,” he pointed out.

(The results of the administrative cases against them led to their dismissal from service. They were among the five dismissed, so they could always ask for an appeal using the criminal records from where their case was dismissed, and the PNP would see it. They will be reconsidered for a real statement.)

DOJ prosecutors had established that Lasco was forcibly taken from his residence by a group of armed men who claimed to be the National Bureau of Investigation agents.

The men reportedly took several valuables, pegged at over P10 million, from four people in Lasco’s house.

Lasco’s relatives said in their complaints that the police officers had claimed that Lasco was the subject of an arrest order for large-scale estafa or fraud.

Lasco and 33 other online cockfighting operators and aficionados — most of whom are believed to have been abducted from cockfighting arenas around Manila, Laguna, and Batangas — have been missing since 2021.

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