Digos police chief’s relief unfairly linked to broadcaster’s arrest, say cops
DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur – The relief of the Supt. Querubin Manalang, the chief of police of this city, on Sunday, had nothing to do with January 29 arrest of broadcaster Arvin Malaza, police and civilian officials said Friday.
Malaza, also known as Jun Blanco, has been claiming that his arrest over the libel suit filed by former mayor Arsenio Latasa was “brutal” and that the actions of the police – under Manalang – were excessive.
Malaza said he was forcibly hauled off his hospital bed by the police and that the incident was documented.
“I have filed a complaint against Manalang,” he said, adding that it led to Manalang’s removal.
But Senior Supt. Dario Gunabe, the Davao del Sur police chief, said Manalang was not relieved because of Malaza’s arrest.
He said Manalang was leaving the Digos City Police because he had completed his two-year tour of duty as police chief.
Gunabe lamented the broadcaster’s apparent effort to drag the police into his predicament.
He said that from the start, Malaza’s arrest was covered by a warrant issued by Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Carmelita Sarno Davin.
The warrant, he said, stemmed from the five counts of libel that Latasa had filed against the broadcaster. Davin has set a bail of P10,000 for each count, which Malaza had posted on Monday.
Gunabe said implementing a warrant could never be illegal and unlawful.
As to Malaza’s claim he was forcibly taken from his hospital bed, a police source said the police and Malaza initially agreed that Malaza would go to the Digos Doctor’s Hospital, a private facility, to get a second opinion on his state of health after a government doctor said there was nothing wrong with him.
Shortly after his arrest on January 29, Malaza complained of chest pains. A government doctor said he was not suffering from any illness though.
When he was about to be locked up at the police’s detention cell, Malaza and his lawyers argued that they needed a second opinion from private practitioners.
The police agreed but shortly after arriving at the hospital, Malaza’s doctor wanted him to be admitted and confined at the hospital.
“But his tests were negative,” the police source, who requested anonymity due to the tension resulting from the controversy, said.
Gunabe said it appeared that Malaza was only dragging the police to draw attention to his candidacy for a seat in the provincial board. Gunabe said Malaza might have wanted to appear persecuted to draw sympathy votes. The broadcaster has been claiming that the libel case filed against him was a form of political harassment.
Digos City Mayor Joseph Peñas, a Malaza relative, said Malaza’s predicament stemmed from the broadcaster’s perceived bias and unfounded commentaries.
Peñas also sided with the police, by saying that Malaza’s arrest was in order.
“Manalang was scheduled for relief as he had been chief of police for two years already,” he said.
“There’s no truth to the claim that Manalang was relieved of his post because of Malaza’s arrest. It is misleading and could be aimed at polluting the mind of the people,” Peñas added.
Malaza’s trouble started in early August when he suddenly started criticizing Latasa, also a former Davao del Sur vice governor.
He started by accusing Latasa of enriching himself while in public office. Malaza said among the pieces of evidence were “Latasa’s mansion and Olympic-sized swimming pool” but offered no further evidence.
Malaza did not give Latasa a chance to refute his allegations and would even brag that as the owner of the FM radio station Kakampi Radio here, he could say whatever he wanted.
He also insinuated that Latasa – whom he called names on air — was behind the extra-judicial killings here of suspected criminals when he was mayor from 1992 to 2010.
By September, Latasa had already filed more than 200 complaints for libel against Malaza at the city and provincial prosecutor’s office – citing among other reasons Malaza’s insinuations he had an affair with the wife of another broadcaster and probably had fathered a child with her.
The wife of that broadcaster also filed on September 9 at least 11 counts of libel against Malaza at the city prosecutor’s office.
Of the complaints that Latasa filed, the city prosecutor’s office only approved six counts, which the court issued a warrant of arrest for.
There has been no information from the Davao del Sur provincial prosecutor’s office on the status of similar complaints that Latasa had separately filed there. SFM
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