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Death weakens charges vs cops in Sawang Calero police controversy
"Although nawala naman atong vital witness, which is the victim, Ritchie Nepomuceno, depende nalang na sa prosecutor kung they will file the case or they dismiss the case… Pero sa amo lang nga part, medyo ni huyang gyud ang amoang kaso because of this incident wherein the victim of the shooting is our vital witness both administrative and criminal," said Police Major Alejandro Batobalonos, chief of IMEG-VFU.

Death weakens charges vs cops in Sawang Calero police controversy

Iris Hazel M. Mascardo (The Freeman) - April 21, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Integrity Monitoring and Enhancement Group Visayas Field Unit (IMEG-VFU) has admitted that the death of the complainant in the robbery and rape charges against cops of the Sawang Calero Police Station in Cebu City is a big blow to the cases against the policemen.

 "Although nawala naman atong vital witness, which is the victim, Ritchie Nepomuceno, depende nalang na sa prosecutor kung they will file the case or they dismiss the case… Pero sa amo lang nga part, medyo ni huyang gyud ang amoang kaso because of this incident wherein the victim of the shooting is our vital witness both administrative and criminal," said Police Major Alejandro Batobalonos, chief of IMEG-VFU.

Nepomuceno was shot dead by still unidentified perpetrators along N. Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City Monday night.

The shooting happened right after IMEG-7 personnel dropped her off the area following a medical examination.

Batobalonos said they provided Nepomuceno security in times she had to go out for commitments in relation to the cases. Her personal business, however, was not covered.

"Wala gyud syay protection basta personal niya nga lakaw," he said.

He said IMEG-7 provided her with security while application for the witness protection program with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is still pending.

But CHR-7 chief investigator Leo Villarino said Nepomuceno had declined CHR’s offer for her to be placed under the program.

"Murag tan-aw nako, ni-relax sya… she let her guard down despite our warnings to her," Villarino said.

The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) is looking into love triangle and illegal drugs as possible motives behind Nepomuceno’s killing.

"We have also reports nga kaning kapuyo niya (Nepomuceno) nga katong na-priso sa BJMP, nakadawat og mga taho nga kaning iyang kapuyo, kaning biktima nga gi-pusil, nga gi- uyab-uyab atong police (Colita) nga iyang gikiha,” said Lt. Colonel Wilbert Parilla, Deputy City Director for Operations of CCPO.

Investigation also showed that Nepomuceno allegedly replaced her former live-in partner, a drug lord, in the illegal drug business.

Cop kills self

But the shocking turn of events did not end with Nepomuceno.

Three hours after she was shot, one of the cops she accused of robbery and rape, Staff Sgt. Celso Colita, allegedly killed himself inside a restroom at the Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit (RPDEU) in between his interview in relation to the administrative charges.

RPDEU chief Major Glenn Hife said there was no hint that Colita would do anything to end his life. He said Colita appeared calm during the interview and even laughed at times.

It was only when he brought up Nepomuceno’s shooting when Colita reportedly started acting differently.

"Akong nakita niya mura syag nakurat. Ako syang gi-follow-up-pan og pangutana kung involved ba ka o naa ba kay kasayoran or knowledge sa iyang pag-ambush… wa na sya mutingog," Hife said.

When he prodded further, particularly on Colita’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs, Colita refused to answer, just looked down, until he asked to be excused from the interview.

"Mga pila ka minutos, sige ko’g istorya, sige sya’g duko, nananghid sya nako nga pwede ba mag cr... pag adto niya’s CR, duol ra man na kaayo… mga pila lang ka minuto, buto dayon, kusog kaayo," Hife said.

In the restroom, Colita was sprawled on the floor, lifeless, with a gunshot wound to his right temple. He was rushed to the hospital but did not make it there alive.

Hife denied foul play.

He said it is possible that Colita had another firearm for himself because the gun issued to him by the PNP was recalled when he and the other policemen from the Sawang Police Station were relieved from work because of the complaints.

"So, basically, katong na-restricted sila, gi-imbargohan na sila sa ilang issued firearms nya kami laging mga operatiba, dili mi kuntento sa among issued firearms, naa gyud mi back-up, kay og ingkaso lang ba, simbako… posible nga naa na syay gitaguan ug gihipos didto sa iyang barracks," Hife said.

Hife said the timing of Nepomuceno’s shooting and Colita’s death may just have been a coincidence, nevertheless, the firearm Colita used to shoot himself will be subjected to ballistic examination to determine if it was the same gun used in killing Nepomuceno.

Hife said he has been meeting with the Sawang Calero cops since last week as part of the investigation.

Colita and 12 other policemen who are subject of the investigation, were restricted inside the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 camp. — JMO (FREEMAN)

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