EDITORIAL - Cops turned kidnappers

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Cops turned kidnappers

Internal cleansing and tightening of recruitment procedures were among the top priorities outlined by Gen. Guillermo Eleazar when he assumed his post as chief of the Philippine National Police. The tasks are daunting, as once again illustrated in a case involving five non-commissioned PNP officers.

Yesterday, Eleazar ordered summary dismissal proceedings against Senior Staff Sergeants June Malilin, Benedict Reyes and Drextemir Esmundo, M/Sgt. Rowan Martin and Cpl. Julius Alcantara. The alleged offense: kidnapping Cavite online seller Nadia Casar reportedly for ransom, and then killing her and burning the remains.

Facing criminal charges together with the five policemen, who are assigned in various PNP units in Nueva Ecija, are civilians Franklin Macapagal and Dario Robarios.

Probers said Casar had hired a Grab ride for a business meeting with Macapagal on July 20 in Sta. Rosa town in Nueva Ecija. On the way back to Cavite in the afternoon, she and the driver were waylaid by the police suspects. They were taken to a house in Palayan City where Robarios served as caretaker. The Grab driver said he overheard one of the suspects telling Casar to call her family for ransom.

The driver was released the next day, after the suspects took his cell phone and P4,500 in cash. Casar’s relatives, meanwhile, sought police help. Upon police questioning, the driver accidentally spotted a photo of one of the kidnappers, Benedict Reyes, who was arrested on July 29. The driver eventually identified from file photos two more suspects, Esmundo and Alcantara. Malilin was apprehended later, and admitted burning and burying Casar on July 23 in the shallow grave where the charred remains were recovered last Sunday.

Three of the policemen are at large. Their operation seems to be organized; how long have they been doing this?

The grisly crime comes on the heels of the cold-blooded fatal shooting of 52-year-old Lilybeth Valdez by her neighbor, police M/Sgt. Hensie Zinampan in Quezon City last June, and the killing of Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her 25-year-old son Frank by police S/Sgt. Jonel Nuezca in Tarlac last December over minor arguments.

There have always been rogues and psychos in the police force. Eleazar, however, must contend with an environment where the use of lethal force has been encouraged in fighting criminality, particularly the drug menace. This can reinforce a mindset of shooting first and asking questions later, which can erode public trust in the police. The PNP will have to intensify efforts to cleanse its ranks, punish rogues, impose discipline and improve the screening of recruits.

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