DAVAO CITY— A member of the military intelligence group implicated in the Rebelyn Pitao rape- slay case was caught violating the election gun ban.
But police released Private First Class Edmar “Ben” Tipait, 50, a member of the military intelligence group after detaining him for 36 hours. Police failed to immediately file the case against him and a companion because all government offices were closed for the weekend.
Superintendent Antonio Rivera, chief of the Davao City police investigation and detection management, said his office had to release Tipait because of the absence of case filed against him.
Tipait was on a motorcycle with Technical Sergeant Elpidio Canillas, 53, when members of the police regional mobile group stopped them at a mobile checkpoint on Diversion Road in Buhangin District.
Tipait and Canillas, also a member of the MIG, were each caught with a .45 caliber without accompanying gun ban exemption documents from the Commission on Elections. Detained at the Buhangin police station, the two were released at around nine o’clock on Sunday evening.
Rivera said Articles 124 and 125 of the Revised Penal Code only allowed detention period of up to 13, 18 or 36 hours for law offenders. Police would be liable for charges of arbitrary detention if they detain suspects beyond those allowable hours in the absence of cases filed against the suspects.
Tipait and Canillas were caught on a non-working day when no fiscal was on duty, so the apprehending officers could not file a case against them. The RMG only filed the cases against Tipait and Canillas on Monday morning hours after their release. They were charged with violations of election gun ban and illegal possession of firearms.
The police also found the memorandum of receipt of the guns to have also expired.
Rivera said the case is still at the fiscal’s office and will be raffled next week.
Lawyer Danilo Cullo, city first district election officer, said the release was in accordance with the law.
But Lawyer Carlos Zarate, the secretary-general of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, decried the police’ “selective” treatment.
Zarate pointed out that when ordinary people were caught violating the law on non-working days, they had to stay in the jail until they will be released on a working day.
He agreed that detaining the suspects beyond the number of hours under the Revised Penal Code will make the police liable for charges of arbitrary detention but they can file the case as soon as the court opens on Monday. He also said the violators can submit their counter-affidavits for the Court to decide whether or not to release the prisoners.
“Why is it that in the past they were not afraid of being charged with arbitrary detention when they detain ordinary people for longer hours?” he asked.
Comelec’s Resolution 8714 stated that only the members of the Philippines National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other government law enforcement agencies authorized by the Comelec are allowed to carry and possess firearms during the election period.
These include regular members or officers who should wear complete uniforms or identification cards with their names, ranks and serial numbers on them. They should also have the license to possess firearms and valid mission orders. They can only carry those firearms in actual performance of their duty.
Evangeline Pitao, wife of New People’s Army’s Commander Ka Parago, was dismayed over the release. Tipait was tagged as one of the 10 military intelligence agents under the 10th Infantry Division suspected for the abduction, torture, rape and killing of her 20-year old daughter.
Progressive groups staged a two-day picket at the DCPO station to express their dismay. Pitao said the incident only showed why people do not trust the police. “They cover up and protect the violators,” she said. (Grace S. Uddin/ davaotoday.com)