Before any of the convicted innocent men were charged for the crime they were convicted of, they were each arrested without warrants of arrest on some other "tramp-up" charges. The police, by some unseen powerful hand, decided to "round up" some young men who were said to have had some minor brushes with the law in the past and pin them with this heinous crime.
Although without any basis, they already decided to pin the crime on the trio, Paco Larraņaga, Josman Aznar and Rowen Adlawan. But first, they had to find some credible "witnesses" to testify against them.
The driver, Alberto Caņo, and his conductor, Ariel Balansag were first arrested without any warrants on July 25,1997 , while they were having their supper, after a day's work.
It's interesting to note, the arresting officers had nothing to do with the Task Force Chiong (the task force created earlier to investigate the disappearance of the two girls). Neither were they connected with any of the intelligence or homicide groups of the police. They were from the vice squad. On their own volition, they decided to arrest the pair.
The two policemen, SPO1 Reynaldo Matillano and PO3 Michael Sarcol, were earlier accused of moonlighting as bodyguards of businessman Peter Lim, said PNP Criminal Investigation Group 7 director Napoleon Estilles said. But Estilles added, they appeared "sincere" in their efforts to solve the Chiong case.
Dionisio Chiong, the father of the missing girls works for Peter Lim.
The police later claimed that Caņo's face matched the cartographic sketch they had of one of the suspects. Later, the sketch "turned out to be that of a policeman investigating the case", The Task Force head said the policeman was mistaken to be a suspect by a resident near the crime scene and the sketch was based on the resident's description.
"The resident claimed that the (police)man went to his house to get a bottle of liquor which was later retrieved at the crime scene."
Within two days after their arrest, witnesses interviewed by the press, said that the van was under repair on the days the crime was said to have been committed. They also vouched for the good character of Caņo.
Caņo and Balansag were later released after 36 hours for lack of evidence.
In spite of witnesses attesting that the van was under repair during the days of the crime, and in spite of the neighbors vouching for their characters, they were rearrested on September 12, 1997, again without any warrants of arrest. Reason: they were able to produce a witness who claimed to have taken the van on his way to the city on that faithful rainy night.
While in detention, Caņo and Balansag were given the usual police "carrot and a stick" mode of interrogation. They were told to just point to the trio, Larraņaga, Aznar and Adlawan as the masterminds of the crime and they would be set free.
They were promised cash rewards through the witness protection program if they implicated the trio. Even their original lawyer tried to convince them to accept the police offer. When they refused, they were detained and charged.
On February 26, 1999, while the trial was on going, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military "recommended that an Information for ARBITRARY DETENTION be FILED" against the arresting officers.
The criminal case was filed against the arresting officers at Branch 1 of the Cebu City Trial Court. It has been archived because of the unavailability of the pair to testify due to their confinement in the National Penitentiary.
The private prosecutor in the Chiong Case defended the arresting officers in court.
The case was later dismissed in December of 2001 by the trial court "due to none appearance of prosecution witnesses."
Again, days after, the police were back again and this time they tried to arrest the brothers without any warrant, claiming that they "found" one live ammunition in a flower pot in their house. Their mother, Jodi Aznar did not allow their children to go with the police since they had no warrants of arrest.
However, Josman volunteered to go with the police officers in order "to find out from their chief, once and for all, why they were constantly being harassed". Matthew refused to go and stayed in the comforts of their home. Josman never saw his home again. He was eventually detained, charged and convicted for another crime, the Chiong case.
Two years later, Judge Olegario Sarmiento Jr. dismissed all charges and accused the police of planting "evidence in the body of the accused so he would remain under custody until the evidence in the Chiong case becomes airtight, not only to create a prima facie case but ultimately sustain the conviction of the accused."
While in custody, Adlawan was said to have been "tortured to admit to the crime and point to Larraņaga and Aznar as the masterminds".
Sometime around August 15, 1997, or five days before the first affidavit against Paco was attested, some Cebu City policemen went to Manila and inquired from Paco's school about his whereabouts. There, they were received by one of Paco's instructors, Rowena Bautista. They particularly asked where Paco was on July 16, 1997.
Bautista check her class record and showed the entry to them that Paco was present in class on July 16, 1997. The policemen seem satisfied and returned to Cebu.
Remember, this was a spontaneous question asked to the instructor without Paco even knowing about it. The instructor didn't even know there was a crime committed nor what the crime was. There was no time to couch the instructor, much less edit the class record to serve as Paco's alibi.
Surprisingly, a month after, September 15, 1997, the policemen were back again, and this time they wanted to arrest Paco, despite that they did not have a warrant.
It appeared while in Cebu, the policemen were able to "find" some "witnesses" implicating Paco to the crime.
Dionisio Chiong's affidavit giving a motive to Paco wasn't even made until the 23rd of September, 1997. Please see Part 13.
The affidavit of one witness, a Rosendo Rio, claimed having seen Paco earlier in the crime scene, about "the last week of June". How could he when the class records indicate that Paco was in Manila attending classes at that time?
He alleged, bothered by his conscience and confessed to the crimes charged; reenacted the crime on May 10, 1998; signed his sworn statement and confession on May 11, 1998.
However, in an affidavit executed by his acquaintance and cellmate in the PNP jail, Rusia complained to him that he was tortured by the police to admit to the crime.
He did not even have neither a lawyer nor any of his relatives present from arrest, custody, and up to the time his signing of his affidavit on May 12, 1998.
For more on Rusia, see Part 2.
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