Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Police witness in massacre case in trouble for going AWOL

01/26/2010 | 04:48 PM

A police lieutenant considered as a potential witness in the Maguindanao massacre case is in hot water for going to the Justice Department office in Manila to seek protective custody without informing his custodians in Camp Crame about it.

Inspector Rex Ariel Diongon was reported missing last Friday and was declared Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL), according to Senior Superintendent Benito Estipona, deputy chief for operations of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

“We found out yesterday [Monday] that he is at the [Department of Justice] seeking protective custody under the witness protection program. [But] he was already declared AWOL so he might face administrative charges for not informing his custodians of his whereabouts," Estipona said.

Section 3, paragraph (d) of Republic Act No. 6981, however, states that a law enforcement officer cannot be admitted into the Witness Protection Program although the immediate members of his or her family may avail themselves of the protection provided for under the particular law.

ARMM police

Before learning of Diongon’s whereabouts, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police (ARMM) Regional Police, which supervises his restriction, gave him until last Monday to surface.

Estipona said they turned Diongon over to the ARMM Police after getting his statements regarding the massacre.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, operations chief of the ARMM Police, said they immediately alerted their forces in the region upon learning of Diongon’s disappearance in Camp Crame.

"We have ordered police forces to search for Diongon and take him in custody immediately if he returns to Mindanao," he said, adding that his phone calls to Diongon were all left unanswered.

Diongon, commander of the 1508th Provincial Police Mobile Group, was among those manning the checkpoint where the ill-fated convoy in the massacre passed last Nov. 23. At least 57 people were killed in the carnage blamed on the powerful Ampatuan clan.

Diongon affidavit

Estipona said Diongon pinned Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. when the police officer executed his affidavit in connection with the November 23 massacre.

A total of 206 respondents, including 66 policemen, were recommended for filing of multiple murder charges with the DOJ in connection with the massacre. Of these, only three – Andal Jr. and militiamen Takpan Dilon and Esmael Canapia – have so far been formally charged by the department.

Dilon and Canapia, both members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO), were charged after the firearms seized from them matched with the shells found in the massacre site. - with Al Jacinto/KBK/RSJ, GMANews.TV

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