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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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5 cops, 3 others suspended

The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices meted five policemen and three other members of Task Force Lawod a penalty of three months and one day suspension from service without pay in the administrative complaint for simple misconduct filed against them by personnel of a fishing vessel they apprehended in 2014.

Earlier, the Prosecutor's Office ordered the dismissal of the criminal complaintsfiled against the respondentsinvolving the same case, namely Police Supt. Gabriel PrietosGutierrez, SPO1 Alfredo Chavez, PO3 Onald Villa, PO2 Albert Juaneza, PO2 Dennis Capatar, all of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, and Noel de la Cruz, Neil Francis Gepanago and WelmanMendones of the Provincial Environment Office, for having no basis.

The administrative and criminal complaints were filed by Gerardo Alolod, Noel Hilado and Robert Despi, boat captain, chief engineer, and master fishermen of F/V Aqua King, respectively, against the respondents who apprehended them on Aug. 18, 2014, while on a fishing expedition in the seawaters between Guimaras Island and the southern part of Negros Occidental, for allegedly being within the 15 kilometer radius prohibited fishing zone.

The complainants alleged that Gabriel and his companions, while waving their firearms, ordered them to disembark from F/V Aqua King and board the navy vessel.

They said Chaves forced RamonitoVillalon to operate F/V Aqua King and follow the navy vessel even when he is not licensed and not authorized to operate it.

Villalon navigated the vessel to Hinigaran, where Villa, Juaneza, de la Cruz, Mendones, Gapango and two others later boarded and made indiscriminate search, the complainants said.

When Despi returned to the vessel on Aug. 20, 2014, he discovered that the money worth P50,000kept in the cabin for the vessel's emergency expenses was missing, they said.

The complainants said the respondents committed qualified piracy for boarding F/V Aqua King without authority; grave coercion for forcing Villalon to navigate the vessel; and arbitrary detention for preventing other crew members from leaving the vessel; and robbery for taking the P50,000 intended for the vessel's emergency expenses.

The respondents also committed administrative offenses of misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, abuse of authority, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, and gross ignorance of the law, they said.

The respondents, on their part, denied the charges and claimed that they were in the lawful and regular performance of their duties as members of Task Force Lawod, when they apprehended the complainants for violation of R.A. No. 8550, particularly Sections 86 and 90, for using active gears in municipal waters and illegal fishing within municipal waters.

The joint resolution dated April 5, was signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer AvelinoMacamus Jr.; concurred in by Yvette Marie Evaristo, acting director PAIAPB-B; recommended for approval by Dennis Garcia, acting assistant Ombudsman; and approved by Cyril Ramos, Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.

The complainants were represented by their legal counsel ArnelLapore.*CGS



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