Truck driver 'mistakenly' arrested as most-wanted rebel commander in Negros

Nony Basco, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 25 2019 07:30 PM | Updated as of Jun 25 2019 07:43 PM

ILOILO CITY - A 54-year-old truck driver is now seeking justice after he was mistakenly arrested as a former rebel commander in Negros region.

Baltazar Saldo was arrested by the operatives of the Regional Intelligence Division and 61st Infantry Battalion Phillippine Army over the weekend for a series of murder and attempted murder cases.

Saldo has been working for a rice dealer in Cuartero, Capiz but he was arrested after a lone witness identified him as Virgilio Paragan, alias "Hassan," a former commander of the New People's Army in Negros.

Paragan is on the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of National Defense CNN-Terrorist list with a P1.050-million bounty.

The witness, who is a son of a former rebel, positively identified Saldo as Paragan, the man who killed his father while they were still active members of NPA.

Saldo was transported to Kabangkalan City Prosecutor's Office Monday afternoon. But after a thorough review of the standing warrants of arrest and the affidavit of the witness who identified Saldo as the same person as Paragan, the prosecutor ordered Saldo released due to technical reasons. 

The prosecutor cited inconsistencies in the witness' affidavit, like it should be subscribed in Negros island and not in Panay. The witness should also act as one of the respondents in the four cases charged against Paragan. 

The military later confirmed that Paragan's relatives told the prosecutor's office that Saldo was not their uncle.

“Someone came in nagpapakilala na pamangkin ni Hassan and she claimed na hindi yun ang tito niya. With that nagkaroon ng doubt si fiscal on the authenticity ng person na na-ipresent sa kanya," Cenon said.

The police, however, insisted that Saldo was not yet off the hook.

Meanwhile, the group Karapatan Panay strongly condemned the arrest.

Reylan Vergara, the group’s chairperson, expressed concern on the act of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines of mistakenly tagging Saldo as a former rebel commander.