PNP seeks change of venue of Moralde case after release of 2 cops linked to his death

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is seeking a transfer of venue of the preliminary investigation on the case of Police Capt. Roland Morale after the local prosecutor’s office ordered the release of the two policemen tagged in his death in Maguindanao two weeks ago.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the change of venue for the preliminary investigation will be one of the focus of discussions between the local legal officers and the police lawyers that would be sent from Camp Crame to the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) 

“The Regional Director of the PRO-BAR are now talking with the Director of the Legal Service to help in the case and they are now studying the possibility to transfer the case to Manila or at least to the regional level from the provincial level,” said Fajardo in a press briefing.

She explained that the legal officers that will be sent to the PRO-BAR will also assist in the case build-up against Police Master Sgts. Aladdin Ramalan and Shariff Balading who were among those charged for the killing of Moralde near the Parang, Maguindanao Public Market on May 2.

Moralde, of the Regional Mobile Forces 14, responded to the report of a man who was carrying a handgun near the public market identified as Mohiden Untal. A shootout between the two erupted which led to the death of the latter.

But five armed relatives of Untal arrived in the area and started shooting Moralde, according to the local police.

Ramalan and Balading surrendered to the Parang Municipal Police Station until they were charged with murder along with their two other relatives.

But on May 8, the local prosecutor ordered their release and Fajardo said they had no choice but to submit to the decision.

The reason

In ordering the release of the two cops, the local prosecutor stated that the two were subjected to warrantless arrest and that it was not established by the pieces of evidence submitted that Moralde was murdered.

In Monday's press briefing, Fajardo said the PRO-BAR has already filed a position paper to the local prosecutor’s office to counter the arguments raised in the resolution. 

On the issue of warrantless arrest, Fajardo said the PRO-BAR stressed that both Ramalan and Balading voluntarily surrendered and even turned over their issued firearms to the Parang Municipal Police Station, adding that both cops even signed the documents to acknowledge their surrender. 

“Hence, the arrest and surrender are distinct and separate concepts. The act of voluntary surrender cannot and will never be a subject of arrest as contemplated in the existing rules of court. Those are arguments of the PNP and hopefully, the prosecutor will appreciate the position paper we submitted,” said Fajardo.

On the argument that the murder of Moralde was not established in the complaint, Fajardo said what was submitted was the death certificate of Moralde and the copy of the CCTV which showed that Moralde was repeatedly shot when he was already slumped on the ground.

The stand of the PRO BAR is that these will suffice and constitute prima facie evidence to prove that indeed what happened with Captain Moraldel constitute murder,” said Fajardo.

Where are they now?

Following the release of the two cops on May 8, the Regional Director of PRO-BAR issued an order placing Ramalan and Balading under restrictive custody.

And citing her conversation with the PRO-BAR regional director, Fajardo said the two cops already made a commitment that they will comply with the order on Monday.

“If they would fail to report within the day, he would issue a return to work order for the two police respondents to appear as soon as they receive the copy,” said Fajardo.

Ramalan is assigned to the Matanog Municipal Police Station in Maguindanao del Norte while Baladin to the Rajah Buayan town. 

Fajardo said investigation is now being conducted into why they were in Parang, especially that the CCTV footage showed that the five men who shot Moralde were wearing civilian clothes.