CA reinstates 3 axed cops accused of torture

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 04 2014 04:08 AM | Updated as of Feb 04 2014 12:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Three policemen dismissed over the arrest and alleged torture of a suspected Abu Sayyaf member in 2006 are to be reinstated on orders of the Court of Appeals (CA).

The CA fourth division granted the petition of Superintendent Roger James Brillantes, Police Officer 3 Peter Paul Pablico and Police Officer 1 Noel Fabia to reverse a Jan. 20, 2012 ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman finding them administratively liable for grave misconduct.

“The arrest of complainant was not a violation of law or established rule,” read the CA decision.

“Complainant was arrested by virtue of a valid warrant of arrest where his alias was duly printed in the warrant and when arrested, explosives were found in his possession.”

The anti-graft agency found the three policemen liable for grave misconduct for arresting Allan Almoite alias Ali Ambing as his name did not appear in the warrant of arrest issued by the Pasig Regional Trial Court.

The CA cited the common knowledge that criminals oftentimes use different aliases to hide their true identities to avoid arrest and prosecution.

“How then could petitioners be liable for grave misconduct when the person they arrested is the same person they perceived to be that in the arrest warrant?” read the CA decision.

The CA dismissed a Commission on Human Rights report, on which the Office of the Ombudsman decision is based, that Almoite was a victim of mistaken identity and was tortured while in detention.

The report only showed that Almoite suffered abrasions and contusions – not enough to prove his claim of torture and maltreatment, the CA added.

The CA said Almoite failed to identify the policemen who allegedly tortured him.

“It is clear that the arrest having been lawful, the petitioners acted in good faith and in the performance of their duties as police officers tasked with the keeping of law and order consistent with their oath of office,” read the CA decision.

“Even if we grant that there was a mistake in the arrest, still the mistake cannot be classified as a grave misconduct considering that the petitioner acted in their belief that the person they arrested was the same person in the warrant of arrest.”

Almoite was arrested in 2006 in Valenzuela City for allegedly being an Abu Sayyaf member.

He denied the allegations, and said that he was arrested because his name was similar to that of a suspected terrorist.

Almoite was detained for 940 days – approximately two and a half years – before a Valenzuela Court dismissed the case of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom against him for insufficient evidence.

Following his release, Almoite filed a civil case, citing a provision in the Human Security Act which states that “any person who is accused of terrorism shall be entitled to the payment of damages in the amount of P500,000 for every day that he or she has been detained or deprived of liberty.”

He sought a total of P470 million in damages, P1 million in moral damages, P1 million in exemplary damages, and at least P10 million in legal fees.