On Target: Couple’s case one for the books
In my 24 years of helping the oppressed through my public service program, “Isumbong Mo kay Tulfo,” I would rate the plight of the couple, retired SPO1 Cristobal Manrique and his wife, Josie, as “10” on a scale of 1 to 10—10 being the highest.
Their sad story started in 2005 when Manrique and a fellow cop in the municipality of Naval in Biliran province said they discovered that the finance officer of the Biliran provincial police headquarters, Insp. James Bunda, was pilfering from their salaries through illegal deductions for many months.
All told, the total amount allegedly pilfered by Inspector Bunda from Manrique and PO2 Narciso Calong was P400,000—P250,000 from Manrique and P150,000 from Calong.
Manrique and Calong filed an administrative case for perjury and grave misconduct against Bunda in the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management in Camp Crame.
There were allegedly other cops from whom Bunda allegedly stole money, but they didn’t file any case against him.
As the administrative case against him was airtight, Bunda sent feelers to amicably settle the case and pay back the money he reportedly stole from them.
The beleaguered finance officer invited them to have lunch with him at Marvin’s Place hotel, one of the few hotel-cum-restaurants in the small town.
The payment was to have been made at the restaurant.
Manrique brought his wife, Josie, and Calong his wife, Elena, with them as the money would be a windfall.
The good news that they would get their money back, however, turned out to be short-lived.
As Bunda was handing them the money, agents from the National Bureau of Investigation arrested the four.
They were taken to the NBI headquarters in Tacloban City where they were charged with robbery-extortion based on Bunda’s complaint.
The couples said they had been set up with the help of the NBI, apparently so they would drop the criminal and administrative cases they had filed against Bunda.
But if Manrique and Calong tried to extort money from Bunda, why bring their wives along?
Cristobal and Josie Manrique, and Narciso and Elena Calong spent 11 months at the Biliran Provincial Jail in Naval.
Judge Enrique Asis of the Naval Regional Trial Court (bless his soul!) ordered them released on their petition for habeas corpus.
Would you believe that in those 11 months they were in jail, Biliran Provincial Prosecutor Gary Cruz never filed a case against the two couples?
That was the reason the Manriques and the Calongs were ordered released by Judge Asis.
The administrative case filed by Bunda against them was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Because of their acquittal by the Ombudsman in 2006, Manrique and Calong were ordered reinstated in the police service.
Manrique retired in 2009 while Calong died of natural causes while in the service.
Manrique sought my help after the Office of the Ombudsman would not give him a clearance so he could get his retirement benefits as the criminal case filed against him is still pending in the court.
When the Ombudsman’s Office asked Prosecutor Cruz for the status of the criminal case filed against Manrique and Calong, the prosecutor had nothing to show for it and feared he would be punished for the excessively long delay.
On June 25, after withholding the criminal case against Manrique and Calong for 10 long years, Cruz finally filed the case in court!
The bail was set at P100,000 for each of them.
Cristobal and Josie Manrique traveled all the way from Naval to seek my help because they didn’t have any money to post bail.
They borrowed money from friends for their fare.
“Mahirap makulong, sir. Naranasan na naming makulong ng 11 buwan (Life in jail is hard. We experienced being in jail for 11 months),” Manrique said.
Will somebody please help the innocent couple raise P200,000 for their bail?
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