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Slain cop had row, fought for gun with PNPA mate

A month before Chief Insp. Elmer Santiago was killed in an ambush in Mandaluyong City, he was briefly detained at the Parañaque City police station after a violent fight with a local officer. The latter’s name would later crop up in the “diagram” Santiago had made linking several lawmen to drug and cybersex syndicates.

Parañaque police chief Senior Supt. Ariel Andrade recalled that Santiago had an argument with the deputy chief for operations, Supt. Robin Sarmiento, at the latter’s office in March. Sarmiento later filed complaints against Santiago for illegal possession of firearms and explosives and had him detained.

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The complaint was dismissed by the office of the city prosecutor, but Sarmiento pressed on against Santiago, his classmate in the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), by filing a motion for reconsideration.

A copy of the motion reached Santiago’s home in Barangay Sumilang, Pasig City, in the morning of April 16.

In a press conference Friday, Santiago’s widow Agnes recalled how her husband’s “spirits sank” upon seeing the document. “They really want to make life difficult for me,” she quoted him as saying.

The couple later went out to see Supt. Maristelo Manalo, another PNPA classmate of Santiago, at his house in Mandaluyong City, where they talked for about an hour and a half about Santiago’s situation. It was shortly after leaving Manalo’s house that the Santiagos were ambushed in their car.

Through an online group seeking justice for Santiago, the diagram surfaced and later became the basis for the Philippine National Police to relieve several policemen of their posts, including Sarmiento and Manalo (currently assigned to the National Capital Region Police Office), for investigation. The order also covered 25 policemen in Central Luzon.

Santiago was reported to be on “floating status” at the time he was killed. Sarmiento was previously assigned in Bataan province, like Santiago, before he was transferred to the Parañaque police in July last year, Andrade said.

“My people told me that Santiago often went here (Parañaque police headquarters) because they (he and Sarmiento] were classmates,” he told the Inquirer in an interview Friday.

But sometime in March, after the weekly command conference, a commotion broke out at Sarmiento’s office. “When I went to check, I saw (Santiago and Sarmiento] grappling for a gun,” Andrade said.

When Andrade asked Sarmiento what caused the fight, “he was just quiet about it. He only said it was personal and didn’t elaborate.”

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Sarmiento later filed a complaint against Santiago for allegedly carrying a grenade at the time. “(Santiago) was detained here for two weeks before the city fiscal (prosecutor) ordered him released pending preliminary investigation.”

Sarmiento could not be reached for comment. His mobile phone line, previously accessible to reporters, was already disconnected.

At the press conference held at Santiago’s wake, his mother Evelyn said her son entrusted his diagram along with an “explanatory memo” to another PNPA classmate based in Camp Crame in September last year, hoping it would reach PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Receiving no updates about it for several months, Santiago started contacting the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption in February, she said.

Jonathan Morales, a former antinarcotics agent and now chair of Anti-Drugs Advocate– Laban ng Pamilyang Pilipino, which first revealed the existence of the diagram, said Santiago’s work ended up apparently not on Purisima’s desk but in the hands of the very people he was exposing.

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TAGS: Crime, Elmer Santiago, Metro, Murder, Police
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