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Mendoza's dismissal from PNP affirmed

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has affirmed her decision dismissing from the service for grave misconduct former police senior inspector Rolando Mendoza, who was killed along with eight Hong Kong tourists whom he had taken hostage last Aug. 23.

After reviewing the case, Gutierrez denied Mendoza’s motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.

In her order, Gutierrez said Mendoza, along with Manila policemen Inspector Nelson Lagasca, Senior Police Officer 1 Nestor David, Police Officer 3 Wilson Gavino and Police Officer 2 Roderick Lopena, failed to present newly discovered evidence or point to any serious irregularity or grave error of fact or law.

“The issue and arguments of the respondents were previously raised, duly weighed and judiciously considered by this Office before it issued the assailed decision,” read the order.

Respondents failed to state any ill motive as to why Christian Kalaw, a 25-year-old hotel chef, would foist upon them such a grave charge, Gutierrez said.

The Office of the Ombudsman ruled Mendoza and the four policemen unlawfully arrested Kalaw, and that he could not be made liable for driving without a license because he was not driving a car at the time of his arrest but was merely seated inside his parked car.

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The illegal parking charge against Kalaw was baseless because the proper procedure to follow was to impound the vehicle or issue a traffic violation ticket but not to arrest the driver, the anti-graft agency added.

Kalaw’s detention from late evening till the following morning for a mere traffic violation was unreasonable, the Office of the Ombudsman said.

Mendoza and his co-respondents appealed the anti-graft agency’s February 2009 decision finding them guilty of an administrative offense.

They claimed that the Office of the Ombudsman had no jurisdiction over Kalaw’s complaint because of an earlier complaint he had filed before the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS).

However, Gutierrez said Republic Act 6770, the Ombudsman Act of 1989, empowers the anti-graft agency to take over, at any stage, from any agency the investigation of a case.

The Office of the Ombudsman exercises concurrent jurisdiction with other government agencies, more specifically over administrative cases against policemen, especially one wherein police authorities agreed to let the anti-graft agency take over the investigation.

In his complaint, Kalaw said on April 9, 2008 while he was seated inside his car which was parked along Vito Cruz Street corner Taft Avenue, Gavino and Lopena approached and told him that he was illegally parked in a counter-flow position on a one-way street and was also driving without a license.

The two then allegedly proceeded to accuse him of being a drug user, conducted an illegal search of his car, and took the P3,000 they found placed on the ashtray of Kalaw’s car.

He said when police officers found that he had a BPI ATM card, he was ordered to divulge his ATM pin, and they tried, unsuccessfully, to withdraw from his account.

Kalaw said he was then brought to the Ospital ng Maynila for a medical check-up, and while at the hospital’s parking lot, David and Lopena grabbed his neck and forced him to swallow what he perceived to be “shabu.”

Kalaw said at the police station, the respondents demanded P200,000 from him, or he would be charged for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Kalaw said a friend came to the police station and gave Gavino P20,000.

The exchange was allegedly made in the presence of Kalaw and the other arresting officers at the back of Manila police headquarters along United Nations Avenue, Kalaw added.

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