Baguio cop faces rap for detaining journalist for 4 days in traffic accident

28/09/2008 09:57

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – A police officer who caused a photojournalist to stay in jail for four days over a simple traffic accident faces counter charges and possible dismissal.

Police Inspector Joseph del Castillo, station chief of Police Community Office 4 along Session Road in Baguio, faces charges of incriminating (an) innocent person, delay in the delivery of detained persons and administrative cases for grave abuse of power and authority.

The counter-charge was filed by Cesar Reyes, a photojournalist of Peoples Tonight who was jailed September 18 to 21 following a traffic accident.

Reyes said he accidentally bumped a taxicab along Session Road on the evening of September 18 and when he went out to check on the damage, drivers of other taxicabs arrived and harassed him until he was cornered, forcing him to draw his firearm.

When police arrived, Reyes surrendered his gun along with license and permit to carry. He also paid P2,000 to settle the dent in the taxicab.

However, police hept him in the office until the following day Friday at 5 p.m. and was told that a case of grave threats was filed against him and there was already no way to post bail.

Reyes was able to get out of jail Monday noon after filing the P3,000 bail for grave threats, reduced from P6,000 when his illegal possession charge was dropped by Prosecutor Ruth Bernabe for lack of probable cause. He was in jail for at least 80 hours. His grave threat charge, however, needs yet to be heard and proven when he will be arraigned on Oct. 6.

In filing the counter-affidavit, Reyes said that he was never investigated and that he was not informed “of the nature and cause of my arrest and my constitutional rights as accused because he (del Castillo) never did."

What resulted was a case of police investigation going over board, said lawyer Richard Cariño who took on the case after Reyes was already incarcerated.

Since Castillo claimed to have undertaken an investigation, Reyes added, “he never informed me that I have the right to remain silent and to counsel as mandated by Sec. 4 of (Republic Act) R.A. 7438."

R.A. 7438 defines the rights of arrested person, detained or under custodial investigation as well as responsibilities of arresting persons.

Section four of said act penalizes the arresting officer “who fails to provide a competent and independent counsel to a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation for the commission of an offense if the latter cannot afford the services of his own counsel."

Reyes' counter affidavit also said that he was not delivered to the proper judicial authorities during the entirety of the more than 17 hours that he was under the police officer's custody.

“I feel outraged," added Carinño who filed the case against the police officers responsible for the journalist’s detention and then filed the charges only when Carlos Abrigo was reportedly encouraged by investigating cops to file a case against Reyes after they agreed that the journalist will pay P2,000, which was signed by both parties.

Reyes paid the amount after lunch Friday but had to stay in detention while cops kept silent on why he remained at the police office.

He said that cops had a closed door meeting with Abrigo for almost two hours and when Abrigo left, a grave threat charge was already made against the journalist.

Reyes was later brought again to the Baguio City Police Office where he was told to proceed to the city jail for finger printing.

“I did not know that there was a already an inquest, I was not even provided with a lawyer but at 5 p.m., I was told that I have to spend the weekend in jail," he added.

“I suffered humiliation, mental anguish and unnecessary detention for the unwarranted and unlawful charge of Police Inspector Joseph Fokno del Castillo," Reyes added in filing his counter-affidavit.

“If he will not file the case then we will," said Pigeon Lobien, president of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, Inc.