DISMISSED from the Philippine National Police after being charged in 2014 with a heinous crime which he did not commit, former Colonel Romualdo ‘Romy’ Iglesia said he wants to return to the force not only to reclaim the benefits and other wages due him but in order to give honor to his family which they richly deserve.
“Para sa akin, ayoko nang bumalik pero para lang sa pamilya ko ito, para me honor naman sila. Biruin mo, for seven years, hindi ko nakausap ang anak kong bunso, wala ako sa graduation ng mga anak ko. Yung mga ganung lungkot, sa tingin mo ba kayang bayaran ng back wages,” he asked.
A well-decorated police official from PNP Academy Class 1992, Iglesia and his men 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.
Court records showed that at around 1:30 p.m. of February 18, 2014, Atty. Archival and his driver Alejandro Jaime died while their other companion Paulo Cores was seriously injured in an attack staged by still unidentified gunmen along the national highway in Bgy. Coro in Dalaguete, Cebu.
The first respondents from the Dalaguete Municipal Police Station recorded in their blotter that the assailants fled on board a black pickup with a backup vehicle described as a red Toyota with plate no. _ __ 195.’ The local police also made a spot report that the gunmen were on board a black pickup.
On February 19, 2014, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group likewise released its Initial Investigation Report which showed that the assassins were on board a black pick up and a red Toyota vehicle with plate no. ‘195’, its control letters undetermined.
An artist sketch of the suspects were released by the PNP-CIDG although none of the facial features of the assailants as drawn by a PNP artist matched those of Iglesia and his men, then Chief Inspector Eduardo N. Mara, Senior Inspector Joselito J. Lerior, Senior Police Officer Edwin Galan and Police Officer 1 Alex P. Bacani.
When the NBI Central Visayas Regional Office took over the investigation of the case on February 25, 2014, Iglesia and his men from the RHPU7 suddenly became the principal suspects in the gun attack.
The new twist came when a local policeman identified as SPO1 Reynaldo Solante and NBI Special Investigator Teodoro Saavedra mentioned for the first time that the killers used a silver Mitsubishi Strada and a red Toyota Vios without mentioning their plate numbers. The black pickup was also not mentioned by the tow.
On March 7, 2014, Supervising Agent Jose Ermie Monsanto took the statement of Cortes, the lone survivor. In his report, Monsanto said that Cortes gave details of the supposed vehicle used by the gunmen which was very much different from the one mentioned in the first two Dalaguete police and CIDG Region 7 reports. The report was also very much similar to the description of the vehicles mentioned by Solante and Saavedra in their joint-affidavit.
The lawyer of Iglesia said that Atty. Monsanto have an axe to grind against the RHPU7 personnel stemming from the filing of administrative and criminal charges against the latter in connection with a separate previous incident.
The NBI Region 7 also searched the Regional Highway Patrol Unit 7 impounding area in Cebu City which was established by Iglesia. Already home to more than 100 stolen motor vehicles recovered by Iglesia and his men, the NBI raiders said two of the vehicles in the area were the ones used in the ambush.
Thus, criminal complaints for multiple murder and frustrated murder were filed by the NBI-7 against Iglesia et al before the Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, the case first assigned to Deputy City Prosecutor Jesus Rodrigo T. Tagaan.
On August 26, 2014, Prosecutor Tagaan issued a resolution dismissing the case insofar as Mara and Galan are concerned but found probable cause to indict Iglesia, Lerio and Bacani.
Tagaan admitted there was ‘no direct evidence’ submitted to prove the participation of Iglesia in the case but just the same indicted the latter on the ground of supposed ‘conspiracy by circumstantial evidence’ and denied the separate motions for reconsideration filed by the respondents.
Amid a number of Motion for Reconsideration and Petition for Review which were not acted upon by the court and the DOJ, a criminal information for multiple murder and frustrated murder was filed against the policemen before the Argao Regional Trial Court Branch 26. The accused’ Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause’ was also denied and a warrant of arrest was issued against the policemen.
Not wanting to be in jail for a non-bailable offense they did not commit, the HPG men went underground and used a Supreme Court ruling which allowed people facing arrest warrants to file pleadings even while in hiding.
The same High Tribunal ruling was cited by former PNP chief-turned Senator and now presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo ‘Ping’ M. Lacson when he went into hiding after being accused of involvement in the infamous Dacer-Corbito case. The Court of Appeals threw out the criminal charges for double murder filed against Lacson and his co-accused.
Finally, on November 15, 2018, the DOJ thru Undersecretary Deo L. Marco granted the Petition for Review filed by Iglesia and ruled that the assailed resolution rendered by Taga-an is set aside and found lack of probable cause against the latter. Marco also directed the Cebu prosecutor’s office to withdraw all the information for murder and frustrated murder filed in court against Iglesia.
The DOJ on November 12, 2019 denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the complainant. In turn, the private complainant filed before the Court of Appeals special civil action for certiorari against the DOJ secretary and Iglesia.
Last March 9, Provincial Prosecutor Ludovico V. Cutaran filed a Motion to Withdraw Criminal Information for Multiple Murder and Frustrated Murder filed against Iglesia before the Cebu City RTC Branch 16.
Last October 27, the CA’s 19th Division dismissed the petition filed by the complainant versus Iglesia and the DOJ chief. On December 6, the Cebu City RTC Branch 16 issued an order granting the motion to quash the warrant of arrest filed by Iglesia and eventually dismissed the criminal cases against him.
Today, Iglesia is a free man wanting to redeem his pride and honor.