QC cops' suspension in Failon wife's case affirmed

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2011 12:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 05 2011 03:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the suspension of 6 officers of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) in connection with the arrest of  a relative and several househelp of the late Trinidad Arteche Etong, wife of ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon, in April 2009.

In a 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Japar Dimaampao promulgated on September 30, 2011, the appellate court's Special Seventeenth Division ruled that the National Police Commission(Napolcom) did not err in issuing a suspension order after finding Supt. Franklin Moises Mabanag, former chief of the QCPD Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit(CIDU), his deputy chief supt. Gerardo Ratuita, Chief Insp. Cherry Lou Donato, Chief Insp. Enrico Figueroa, Senior Insp. Roberto Razon Sr. and Insp. Erlinda Garcia culpable for grave misconduct.

“The conclusion of the Napolcom was substantiated by positive and compelling evidence. There is no reason for us to digress therefrom,” the decision read.

Chaired by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronnie Puno, the Napolcom ordered the relief of Mabanag as chief of the CIDU.

Respondents were charged administratively stemming from the complaint of Napolcom's Inspection, Monitoring and Investigation Service (IMIS) arising from the arrest of the sister-in-law and househelp of Failon, whose wife, Tina Arteche-Etong, was found with a gunshot wound to the head on April 15, 2009.

The National Bureau of Investigation(NBI) concluded that Arteche-Etong had committed suicide.

Mabanag and the other CIDU officers arrested Pamela Arteche-Trinchera, Failon’s sister-in-law, and four helpers of the Failon household —Carlota Morbos, Wilfreda Bollicer, Pacifico Apacible and Glen Polan— citing them for “obstruction of justice.” The arresting officers claimed that Arteche-Trinchera and the four helpers allegedly gave contradictory statements to police investigators, failed to report the shooting immediately and cleaned or altered material evidence.

Mabanag's group claimed Arteche-Trinchera and the four helpers were arrested without warrants supposedly because they were committing the continuing offense of obstruction of justice at the time of the arrests.

The Napolcom, however, found that police officers violated not only existing Police Operational Procedures on carrying out valid arrests, but also the Rules of Court.

According to the police commission, the claim of Mabanag that the warrantless arrests were made because the crime was a continuing offense cannot be justified, considering that the alleged crime of obstruction of justice took place on April 15, the day of the crime, while the arrests were done the day after at the New Era General Hospital where the late Arteche-Etong was rushed for treatment.  

The appeals court said that the Napolcom was right when it ruled that Mabanag and his men failed to substantiate their claim that those arrested were properly read their rights as required under the Miranda Doctrine.

"[W]e consider the police as guardians of the people tasked with the solemn duty of protecting our rights. It is disheartening, if not, alarming, to hear of members of the [Philippine National Police] PNP who oppress and trample upon the people’s revered rights. Along this vein, we resonate the edifying enunciation of the Napolcom,” the decision read.

Meantime, respondents Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, SPO2 Jerry Abada and PO2 Joycelyn Marcelo were cleared of the charges for insufficiency of evidence.