Tiamzons camp: Inquest procedure ‘highly irregular’

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Monday, March 24, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, the top-ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) who were captured in Cebu over the weekend, walked out of the inquest proceedings held Monday in Quezon City along with their lawyer.

Rachel Pastores, legal counsel of the Tiamzons and five others, said they did not participate in the inquest proceedings for illegal possession of firearms and explosive devices since the activity was "highly irregular."

The inquest was conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) at the Philippine National Police (PNP) multi-purpose hall in Camp Crame.

Pastores said the proceedings should be done immediately or within 24 hours after the arrest of the person in the area where the crime allegedly happened.

"Unless ma-resolve ang issue ng jurisdiction dun sa inquest officers to conduct the inquest proceedings ay hindi natin kikilalanin yung prosesong pinagdaanan nila," she said.

Pastores, together with her clients, walked out of the multipurpose hall to show their disagreement to the said procedure.

Pastores also questioned the case being filed against her clients, saying that since the arrest of the couple last March 22, it was the first time that they heard that firearms, explosive devices and ammunitions were confiscated in the operation, adding that the state prosecutors do not have the authority to conduct inquest procedure in Manila when allegedly, the crime happened in Cebu.

"Nagkaroon ng inventory noon 'nung nandoon pa sila sa Cebu at wala naman doon na firearms and explosives and ammunitions na nakalista dun sa nabasa nila unless nalang nadagdagan," Pastores said.

"Ang kinukwestyon natin ay saan nanggaling ngayon yang firearms and explosives and ammunitions na pinapakita nila belatedly ngayon. Hindi natin pwedeng hayaan na magkaroon lang ng justification 'yung illegal arrest na ginawa sa kanila by belatedly filing this case of alleged illegal possession of firearms ammunitions and explosive," she added.

The joint military and police teams that arrested the Tiamzons and their companions seized from the operation assorted firearms and explosives, according to a report by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) chief Senior Superintendent Roberto Fajardo.

Pastores said if the state prosecutors will pursue in filing cases against her clients even though they were considered absent in the procedure, they will question the validity of the process and they will file charges to the arresting officers who presented the firearms, explosive devices and ammunitions as evidences since they appear to be "planted."

Fajardo said that DOJ prosecutors do have the authority to conduct inquest procedure anywhere.

"'Yung DOJ natin pwede maginquest kahit saan pero 'yung proper hearing an doon talaga gaganapin 'yun sa lugar na pinangyarihan nung krimen, at 'yung sinasabi niya (Pastores) sinasabi lang niya 'yun to defend her clients," he said.

The arrest of the top CPP-NPA leaders was carried out following a meeting between the PNP and Intelligence Unit officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Crame last March 21, in line with the PNP's "Oplan Pagtugis."

On March 22, elements of the NCR-CIDG, Philippine Army and Carcar City Police were dispatched and directed to conduct an operation targeting the arrest of two high-value targets, the Tiamzons.

The operatives conducted a checkpoint after receiving intelligence information that the Tiamzons on board of a gray Hyundai Starex van (with license plate MDN-171) with security convoy, a black Toyota Innova (YGY-897), will move passing through the vicinity of Barangay Valencia, Carcar City. However, the convoy of the targets passed through the checkpoint, prompting the CIDG and a team from Carcar police to give chase to the two vehicles.

In Barangay Zaragoza, Aloguinsan town, the marked vehicle of CIDG and Carcar City Police was able to overtake and block the convoy of the Tiamzons.

"Immediately, after the occupants of the two vehicles were neutralized, CIDG detectives approached and opened the door of the gray Hyundai Starex van and were able to identify two of the top ranking CPP personalities inside," Fajardo's affidavit stated.

The operatives approached the two vehicles and presented various warrants of arrest to the CPP-NPA top leaders. They were also told of the reason of their arrest.

Also onboard the Hyundai Starex van were Joel Enano, Rex Villaflor, and Arlene Panea.

"While the CIDG detectives were affecting the arrest of the Tiamzon couple, the black Toyota Innova behind the Hyundai Starex van tried to maneuver back to elude and escape from the law enforcers presence but was timely blocked," the affidavit added.

The CIDG operatives immediately searched the two vehicles and seized assorted firearms and explosive devices. A .45 caliber pistol was found below the second row seat of the Hyundai Starex van where the couple was seated.

The PNP said the arrested CPP-NPA leaders and their companions failed to present pertinent documents authorizing them to possess the said firearms and explosives.

Meanwhile, the Tiamzon couple and five others claimed they are residents of Pasig City and southern Cebu when asked by the PNP. (Sunnex)

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