Ombudsman junks raps vs NBI agents sued for torture of detainees, evidence planting

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Ombudsman junks raps vs NBI agents sued for torture of detainees, evidence planting
File photo of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Philstar.com / File

BAGUIO CITY— Criminal and administrative charges filed against nine agents of the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Task Force Against Illegal Drugs were dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in a ruling on Feb. 12, 2024, received on Monday.

In the ruling, Office of the Ombudsman’s Graft Investigator and Prosecution Officer III Fatima Kristine Franco-Ilao said that agents of the NBI’s TFAID who caught Nicasio and Nicholes Manio in a drug sting operation in Batangas City on June 8, 2021 did not violate any law as alleged by the brother’s mother who complained of her son’s illegal arrest. 

“The alleged crimes for which the Manio brothers were charged are punishable by afflictive or capital penalties, or their equivalen, thus, they could be detained for 36 hours without criminal complaints or information having been filed with the proper judicial authorities," the decision read.

In February last year, Joyce, the mother of the Manios, also complained about torture and planting of evidence against NBI TFAID chief Ross Jonathan Galicia as well as NBI agents Eduardo Ramos Jr., Levi Mora Orille, Aubrey Cosidon, Eigelbert Pulan, Abner Dotimas, Nestor Gutierrez, Allan Ernesto Elefante and Gary Menez.

Franco-Ilao of the Ombudsman also dismissed the elder Manio’s complaint of grave coercion. 

“There is no proof that respondents prevented (Manio brothers) from doing something not prohibited by law, or compelled to do something against their will," the ruling read.  

The Ombudsman also said that Joyce's allegation that her sons were intimidated and/or threatened by respondents to sign the 14-page (joint sworn statement) is "unconvincing."

Her sons were assisted by their lawyer at the time of the signing of the joint sworn statement,  the Ombudsman’s investigator said.

“They could have just easily reported the threats and intimidation to their lawyer, but they failed to do so, thus, negating the existence of intense fear or intimidation..” Franco-Ilao said.

She added that there is no ground to indict the NBI agents of torture because there was no evidence presented by the complainant to prove her sons were tortured while enroute to the NBI-TFAID offices in Manila. The NBI agents also presented medical certificates of the Manio brothers disproving the torture claim of Joyce.

Likewise, Franco-Ilao begged off to rule on complaints of planting of evidence since “the drug case (against the Manios) is currently being heard before the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Batangas City. 

“The resolution of the issue of planting evidence, particularly marijuana, in the present case might affect the criminal case pending before the court.  The court has not yet ruled on the legality of the buy-bust operation," the Ombudsman said. 

Franco-Ilao likewise dismissed allegations of rape against NBI TFAID chief Galicia because “nothing in record could support such claim” made by Joyce. 

The ruling said that CCTVs are installed at the TFAID Office “that can capture the alleged illegal acts of the respondent,” and “the room where the alleged sexual assault happened was near and within the hearing distance from the tables of the other TFAID operatives, making the allegation of rape rather unconvincing.”

Franco-Ilao also learned that the NBI TFAID agents acted in accordance with their duty protected by the presumption of regularity and good faith, “which in the present cases, complainant failed to rebut.”

Before the sting against the Manios, the NBI sued them being police assets tagged in the disappearance of drug suspects in 2021. They were also among the respondents in the kidnapping case filed by the NBI before the Department of Justice against operatives of the National Capital Region Police Office Regional Drug Enforcement Unit (NCRPO) in connection with the April 2021 disappearances of Brent Michael Bravo and John Philip Viscarra in San Andres Bukid, Manila; Robert Caidoy, Rexcell Hipolito, Ahjong Dizon and Ivan Serrano in Sta. Cruz, Manila, as well as siblings Gio and Mico Mateos, Garry Matreo and Ronaldo Anonuevo in Cavite.

The Manio brothers were also tagged in the disappearance of e-sabong players.

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