IN February 2014, Police Colonel Romualdo P. Iglesia, ‘Romy’ to his peers and colleagues went on the run after being charged with a crime he did not commit. Seven years later, he resurfaced in public after the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed a Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) decision dismissing the criminal cases filed against him by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for lack of probable cause.
Now 54 years old, the member of Philippine National Police Academy Class (PNPA) 1992 is fighting not only for reinstatement in the force but also wants to be the ‘face’ of police officers and men who were wronged in the performance of their duties, with nothing to turn to except their family and friends who understand their situation.
“Ang nami-miss ko ngayon ay yung lungkot. After seven years, 1st time ako nag-Pasko with my family kasi lumabas ang decision two weeks before Christmas,” the former PNP-HPG intelligence chief and later head of the Regional Highway Patrol Unit 7 in Central Visayas told the Journal Group in an interview.
Just like in the case of former PNP chief-turned Senator and now presidential candidate, Sen. Panfilo ‘Ping’ M. Lacson, Iglesia said he was lucky to have a good lawyer who knew the law, pointing out the same Supreme Court ruling cited by Lacson which allowed people facing arrest warrants to file pleadings even while in hiding.
Sen. Lacson resurfaced in March 2011 after over a year in hiding and said he was a ‘fugitive from injustice.’ He left the country in early 2010 shortly before a Manila judge ordered his arrest for his alleged role in the murder of publicist Salvador ‘Bubby’ Dacer’ and the latter’s driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.
The CA, just like in the case of Iglesia, threw out the charges against the former top cop.
Iglesia is a veteran intelligence officer who was instrumental in the busting of well-entrenched car theft syndicates in the country during his stint with the PNP-HPG.
Under former PNP-HPG director and later PNP Officer-in-Charge, now retired General Leonardo A. Espina, the latter engineered a number of major HPG anti-carnapping operations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao which resulted in the seizure of hundreds of SUVs and cars stolen in Metro Manila and transported to Cebu, Bacolod and General Santos where they were later sold to both witting and unwitting buyers thru the use of fraudulent registration papers.
Iglesia’s career was literally on the rise until tragedy struck when he and his team were accused by the NBI Region 7 office of involvement in the ambush-killing of Attorney Noel Archival and his driver in Dalaguete, Cebu on February 18, 2014.
Swearing to God that he and his men were innocent of the charges hurled against them by the NBI, Iglesia fought hard to fight the NBI case in court until he decided to go in hiding when a court issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest against him and his subordinates.
“Napakahirap ng pinagdaanan ko kasi naniwala yung pamilya ng victim na kami ang bumanat pero fabricated lahat ng NBI theory,” he said.
The protracted court battle waged by his lawyer saw him questioning during those years the PNP leadership’s well-publicized effort to help its officers and men who have been charged in court in the performance of their duties.
“Maraming tumulong sa akin morally and financially, me mga superiors, classmates and kaibigan ko pero yung PNP as an institution, wala, zero, nada,” he said.
He said that during the time of Gen. Espina, he and his three co-accused used to receive P10,000 each for their monthly expenses. “But after Espina left the PNP, the financial support stopped literally. “Walang contact na sa akin, walang Legal Service support sa amin,” he said.
Iglesia laments the opportunities he lost in the past seven years. “Where is the so-called help from the PNP leadership in 2016 and the succeeding years? Everytime, they’re saying that morale and welfare of their men is their priority pero nasaan,” he asked.
The official said he wants to be the ‘face’ of policemen who have been wrongly charged in court and really wants to experience how their top officials will exercise their ‘paternal power’ over them.
“Silang mga opisyal namin ang tumatayong Tatay namin sa PNP pero sana naman ay sa gawa at hindi sa salita lamang. Pag ikaw ay PNP personnel charged with a crime you did not commit, you should be entitled to back wages as mandated by law pero hindi dapat doon lang mag-stop ang tulong ng PNP. Paano na yung pinagdaanan ng tao, ng kanyang pamilya,” he said.
Iglesia remembers with all sadness the time he was dropped from the PNP rolls and his salary was stopped.
“Sa akin, when I was dropped from rolls, talagang gutom ang pamilya ko kasi ako ang breadwinner. Kung puwede lang na nung age 47 ako, nag-freeze ang age ko. Pero nung lumabas ang decision favoring me, I’m already 54. Hindi lang acquittal, the case was dismissed due to lack of probable cause.
Kaya sa tingin ko lang, yung seven years na unserved tour of duty, dapat idagdag sa retirement age na 56. Hindi na ako pero dapat i-apply ito sa mga susunod na victims ng injustice sa PNP. I think doctrine lang ng PNP will suffice,” he said.