A THIRD policeman ordered arrested by the court in connection with the abduction of an “e-sabong” (online cockfighting) master agent in Laguna in August 2021 has surrendered to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG) on Saturday evening, PNP Chief General Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr. announced yesterday.
“The ongoing investigation into the case of 34 ‘missing sabungeros’ [took] an encouraging turn with the surrender of the three accused in the alleged abduction of ‘e-sabong’ master agent Ricardo Lasco in San Pablo City on August 30, 2021,” the top cop told a press conference at Camp Crame.
According to Azurin, the dismissed police corporal, a 37-year-old resident of Patimbao, Sta. Cruz, Laguna turned himself over to the PNP-IMEG headed by Brigadier Gen. Warren F. de Leon at 6:30 p.m. last Saturday.
De Leon said that the accused, accompanied by his wife, voluntarily surrendered to officers of the IMEG Luzon Field Unit 4-A inside the Calauan Municipal Police Station (MPS) in Calauan, Laguna to face the criminal charges against him.
The accused yielded following talks with members of the IMEG Luzon Field Unit 4-A and the Laguna Police Provincial Office (PPO) under Colonel Randy Glenn G. Silvio.
The suspect was placed under the custody of the Calauan Police after being apprised of his constitutional rights.
Two other former colleagues of the 3rd cop from the Laguna PPO, a dismissed patrolman, and one corporal also surrendered to the PNP-IMEG last Friday.
De Leon said that the patrolman yielded to his men at 2:45 p.m. Friday in Rizal, Laguna while the corporal followed suit five hours later in Liliw municipality.
All three are the subject of a warrant of arrest for robbery, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention issued by Judge Luvida Roque of the San Pablo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 29 on Tuesday last week.
“We’re looking at a good breakthrough in our ongoing investigation into the cases of the missing ‘sabungeros’ especially if the three will cooperate. I really hope they will cooperate and sabihin na nila ano ba talaga nangyari to give justice to the missing victims and their families,” Azurin said.
He also made the same appeal to other personalities who have knowledge of the disappearance of the 34.
Azurin also said that in the event that they will discover the lesser participation of the accused in the case of the missing persons, they can ask proper authorities to evaluate if they can be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the government.
He added that they are also ready to provide security to the accused and their families if they decide to cooperate with investigators and spill the beans on what really happened to the victims.
The IMEG Luzon Field Unit (LFU), joined by officers from the Police Regional Office (PRO) 4-A Regional Special Operations Unit under Brig. Gen. Jose Melencio C. Nartatez and the Laguna PPO launched a massive operation to get the suspects shortly after warrants for their arrest were released by the court, prompting them to turn themselves over voluntarily after feeling the pressure of the hunt, said De Leon.
The judge recommended no bail for the suspects in connection with the kidnapping, with serious illegal detention cases filed against them. However, they were allowed to post a P400,000 bail for the robbery with violence case.
“After a series of negotiations, our IMEG Team 4-A convinced [thi]s former PNP personnel who have placed the entire police force in a bad light to surrender and face the charges against them,” said De Leon.
The suspects were identified as among the men who posed as “members of the National Bureau of Investigation” (NBI) when they kidnapped Ro Lasco in his residence in Barangay San Lucas 1 in San Pablo City in Laguna on August 30, 2021.
The suspects then claimed they were serving a warrant of arrest for large-scale estafa against the victim, who has gone missing since then. Investigators said that the suspects also took with them some P10.4 million worth of cash and other personal belongings of the victim and his relatives as they left the scene.
“May these efforts remind our kababayans that the PNP, under the leadership of our Chief PNP, Gen. Azurin is giving its best to cleanse the organization of a few undesirable members. The PNP is very serious and concerned with ensuring that the Filipino people get the kind of service they can trust and depend. Mahirap ngunit walang impossible sa organisasyong nagkakaisa,” De Leon said.
Last December, Azurin ordered the dismissal from the service of the two suspects along with three other Laguna police officers, in connection with the Lasco case.
The five were earlier placed under restrictive custody at the PRO 4-A headquarters.
Last November 25, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to indict the three suspects on charges of robbery and kidnapping while it cleared two other police suspects.
The PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) welcomed the indictment of the accused as it maintained that all efforts are still underway to resolve the other cases of the “missing sabungeros.” BY ALFRED DALIZON & ZAIDA DELOS REYES