By JIGGER JERUSALEM, and MARK FRANCISCO with LITO RULONA – Correspondents culled from http://www.goldstardailynews.com
REGIONAL State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa yesterday called on the National Police to immediately suspend city police director Noel Armilla and other officers accused of being involved in an alleged cover-up.
Umpa’s call came after Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez linked Senior Supt. Armilla to alleged efforts to botch up the case on the March 5 shooting of DxCC broadcaster Nilo Labares.
Umpa sought a preventive suspension order against Armilla and other officers. The prosecutor’s superior, Gonzalez, earlier asked National Police Director General Jesus Versoza to relieve the city police chief and his men.
In a letter to Versoza, Gonzalez said there were indications of ‘‘a continuing attempt by the PNP of Cagayan de Oro City to whitewash the case and derail the prosecution of the case.”
Umpa said Chief Supt. Danilo Empedrad, the region’s police director, should reconsider his stand about not suspending Armilla and other members of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo).
Umpa said Empedrad did not want Armilla and other officers suspended two weeks ago.
‘‘There is an affidavit now. There are also letters from the Secretary of Justice. Empedrad should reconsider,’’ said Umpa, adding that Camp Alagar should immediately issue preventive suspension orders against the Cocpo chief and his men.
He said he was directed by the justice department to ask Empedrad to issue the preventive suspension order. The DOJ is keeping an eye on Camp Alagar––and Empedrad.
Umpa said the justice department has recommended charges of grave misconduct against Armilla and some members of the Cocpo.
Specifically, Gonzalez said, Armilla and his men could be held liable for “incompetence, malfeasance, dereliction of duty, obstruction of justice, violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, incriminating innocent persons and violation of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”
Umpa said Gonzalez’s two letters to Versoza one dated March 12 and the other, March 23 were part of the justice department’s efforts against any whitewash.
Gonzalez said police officers went to the extent of barging into the house of Labares last March 19. He said the “members of Cagayan de Oro PNP …harassed the Witness Protection Program personnel detailed to guard the victim (Labares)…”
Umpa said Gonzales linked Armilla and some Cocpo members to the alleged cover-up based on allegations made by an Army sergeant identified as Rommel Bagares.
Bagares has alleged that police officers tried to stop him from testifying against self-confessed ‘‘video karera’’ collector Bernardo ‘‘Nanding’’ Aguilar.
Umpa said Bagares’s statements provided a link between Aguilar and Baby Chang (spelled ‘‘Bebe’’ and ‘‘Bebeng’’ in Gonzalez’s letters). Chang is suspected to be among those behind the video karera operations in Cagayan de Oro.
Bagares has accused Armilla of pressuring him into backing off. He said Armilla wanted him (Bagares) not to cooperate with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which looked into the Labares case.
Gonzalez has also requested Versoza to send from Manila a competent investigating team composed of people with “unquestionable integrity… (to) vigorously pursue all leads and gather evidence not only for the purpose of indicting all persons who are probably guilty of the crime but to ensure that they are tried, convicted and penalized in accordance with law.”