Suffering in silence

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2021 - 12:00am

The Philippine Navy officers and enlisted men who were suspected of killing Ensign Phillip Pestaño aboard the RPS Bacolod in 1995 have been completely and irrevocably acquitted of the crime.

The Supreme Court recently acquitted them of the administrative case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in addition to the criminal charges.

The Manila Regional Trial Court earlier cleared the officers of conspiracy in the alleged murder of Pestaño, their subordinate naval officer.

Thus ended the epic saga of the officers and sailors – Capt. Ricardo Ordoñez, Cdr. Reynaldo Lopez, LCdr. Luidegar Casis, LCdr. Alfrederick Alba, LCdr. Joselito Colico, LCdr. Ruben Roque, HM2 Welmenio Aquino, Petty Officer lst Class Carlito Amoroso and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Igcasan – who were placed behind bars for years while the case was being tried.

It seemed the Navy, as an organization, abandoned them while they were being tried for murder, even if at first it went through the motions of supporting them.

After years of confinement, the officers were allowed to post bail at P200,000 each for their temporary liberty. They dug into their own pockets.

The two petty officers (equivalent to sergeants in the Army) were able to post bail after billionaire philanthropist Kim Wong came up with P400,000 in cash for the two of them out of pity.

Pestaño was found dead in his cabin with a bullet wound in the head. It was an apparent suicide, according to the findings of Dr. Raquel del Rosario-Fortun, a forensics expert.

Based on Fortun’s findings, Ombudsman Aniano Desierto and later Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez cleared the Navy personnel of murder.

However, for reasons of her own, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, who replaced Gutierrez, refiled the criminal and administrative charges.

Morales believed the contention of American Wayne Hill Sr., a self-styled forensics expert who turned out to be an ambulance driver and stand-up comedian, that Pestaño was murdered.

Pestaño’s father, Felipe, known as Don Pepe in the Navy as he was  a big contractor, was adamant that his son did not commit suicide.

But Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Hannah Arriola acquitted the accused.

The acquitted officers and sailors, who have since been reinstated – except for Captain Ordonez, who retired – still suffer the stigma of being accused of murdering their shipmate.

One of them is Cdr. Lopez, who graduated with honors as part of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1992. Lopez missed his chance of being promoted to flag officer (commodore or admiral).

The other is LCdr. Casis, who graduated as part of the United States Coast Guard Academy Class of 1992. He, too, missed being promoted to commodore or admiral.

In the US, people wrongly accused could file for damages against the government and could be rewarded millions of dollars.

Not here in the Philippines. Those wrongly accused and were subsequently acquitted will just have to suffer in silence.

*      *      *

Filipino-Chinese businessman Arvin Tan, who had policemen chase him recently all over Metro Manila to escape a P20,000 hotel bill, is a recidivist and should be pitied instead of being condemned.

Arvin’s refusal to pay his hotel bill is rather unfortunate and surprising since he is a multi-millionaire – he owns a very lucrative e-bingo franchise – and drives around in expensive sports cars.

In the car chase recently, he was driving a BMW car. His car bumped many other cars along his escape route to elude pursuing cars.

Three years ago, Arvin also led policemen in a wild chase that started at the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters and ended at his townhouse in Quezon City.

Tan created quite a racket at the MPD headquarters by shouting invectives at the cops who tried to prevent him from taking a video of investigation proceedings that did not concern him.

He was at the police headquarters to file a complaint that somebody pointed a gun at him.

In the first case, police overreacted to his invectives; technically Tan did not commit any crime. He should have been left alone or just admonished not to take a video of a case that did not concern him.

The reporters covering the altercation between Tan and the policemen should have sided with Tan who, I think, was innocent.

They should have sensed that Tan was mentally-impaired.

Tan needs professional help.

*      *      *

The following is the response time by emergency services in different cities in the world:

In New York, police and paramedics can arrive at the crime or accident scene within 5 to 12 minutes for critical situations.

It’s within 8 minutes “82.1 percent of the time for life-threatening cases” in Singapore for their emergency medical services, and in Hong Kong, 10 minutes plus or minus given the traffic situation.

In Metro Manila, the police arrive at the scene in seconds. Why? Because the perpetrators of the crime are policemen.

That’s how efficient Philippine cops are.

That joke, which is a general observation, is half-meant. “Half-meant” means it’s partly true.

*      *      *

Government beefs up Delta response – it’s the latest headline about our country’s actions versus COVID-19.

The government should stop spreading panic among the populace.

If the Delta variant is more infectious than the other COVID-19 strains, then the government should take steps to contain it, instead of instilling fear.

The citizenry has become inured to fear, and making them afraid with dire warnings would only make the government look silly.

In London, the government has lifted pandemic restrictions, like social distancing, after Britons threw caution to the wind.

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” is the best way to describe how the Britons feel.

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