By Martin Sadongdong
A tracker team from the Philippine National Police (PNP) is continuously working side by side with their counterparts from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to arrest four former lawmakers who are facing murder charges.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said they are receiving progress reports on the status of the manhunt operation against National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Maza, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, and former Bayan Muna Party-list representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino although he did not further dwell on the issue.
“We have deployed our trackers team, led by the CIDG [Crime Investigation and Detection Group], and the NBI also has its own. Together, we are conducting manhunt operations,” Albayalde said while requesting to keep some information private so as not to jeopardize the operation.
“Part of our manhunt operation is to determine whether there are persons coddling them. It is important to note that it is a violation of the law if you are helping a crime suspect [to escape] so stop,” he said. The manhunt operation started since late last month.
Coddling a crime suspect is punishable under Section 1 (c) of the Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1829 or obstruction of justice with a penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period (six months and one day to six years), or a fine ranging from P1,000 to P6,000 or both.
With this, Albayalde reiterated his appeal to the four activist leaders to just surrender to authorities and face trial.
Albayalde earlier announced the PNP has received a copy of the arrest order issued by Judge Evelyn Atienza Turla, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 40 in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija against the four activist leaders.
Although he said they are hot on the trail of finding the four hunted suspects, he assured that operatives will adhere to the rule of law and human rights will be properly observed.
“The PNP is duty bound to implement orders of judicial authorities. That is our constitutional mandate that law enforcers must abide with due to consideration to human rights and dignity of the accused,” he said.
A P1-million reward was offered by civil society group Citizen’s Crime Watch (CCW) for the arrest of Maza, Mariano, Ocampo and Casino.
Meanwhile, the legal counsel of the four suspects, lawyer Rachel Pastores, previously said they will appeal the case since Judge Turla ruled in 2008 that there is no sufficient evidence found previously.
The case stemmed from the alleged involvement of the four suspects in the killing of supposed members of Bayan Muna who transferred and pledged allegiance to its rival group, Akbayan, in Nueva Ecija years ago.