COUNCILOR FREED, COP RELIEVED
PO2 Cyrelle Bayate, the policewoman who was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. on Friday for playing with a slot machine at a casino in Cebu City, has been relieved from her post at the Parian Police Station of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).
Senior Insp. Narolf Tan, the station commander, said Bayate’s relief was “effective immediately.”
Tan said Bayate, 30, was also stripped of her service firearm and would be transferred to the Regional Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (PHAU) of the CCPO.
But Cordova Councilor Lemuel Pogoy, who was separately arrested on the same day in a casino in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island, was lucky.
Pogoy, who was held for just barely a day, was ordered freed by the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office after it dismissed for lack of probable cause the complaint filed against the councilor by the Regional Special Operations Group in Central Visayas (RSOG-7) for violation of Article 231 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to the Memorandum Circular No. 6 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, which prohibits government workers from entering casinos.
Bayate is facing a similar offense, also filed by RSOG-7 before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office, but she has remained in detention.
In Pogoy’s case, however, a decision penned by Lapu-Lapu City Assistant City Prosecutor Sheilamar Saliganan-Abadia, dated Jan. 26, 2018, found no criminal liability on the part of the councilor since he is an elected official; and the memorandum circular cited in the complaint only covered judicial or executive officers in the employ of government.
“Ultimately, the first element is wanting in the above-captioned complaint since the respondent is a member of the legislative officer (sic) being a municipal councilor,” Abadia said in the resolution, which was approved by Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor Ruso Zaragoza.
But the same order said that “the finding of lack of criminal liability does not presuppose that the respondent cannot be held administratively liable for his acts.”
Pogoy, according to a source, walked out of the RSOG-7 detention on Friday night soon after the police release order for the councilor was issued by the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office.
Face the music
Cordova Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho, who admitted she is a relative of Pogoy, said she would not intervene in his case and would let him face the consequences of getting caught inside a casino.
Sitoy-Cho said she would not also tolerate the wrongdoing of the councilor, who was arrested around 1 a.m. on Friday inside the Mactan Isla Resort and Casino, located in Sitio Ibabao, Barangay Agus in Lapu-Lapu City, while playing with the slot machines.
Cho, who at the time of the interview did not know yet of Pogoy’s release, admitted that soon after learning of Pogoy’s arrest early on Friday, she had called him on the phone but only to ask how he was.
“I called him (to ask about his condition right after he was arrested),” Cho said.
Cho stressed that Pogoy, while embroiled in a gambling issue, is a good public servant, an active member of the municipal council and one who has good plans for Cordova.
However, Cho said she was also aware that no matter how good a public servant was Pogoy, his gambling habit could lead him to corruption.
“Bawal gyud na ang sugal. Kaning sugal mao man g’yud ni maka-lead nato to some kind of murag expenses nga dili makaya sa atong income (There is a strict prohibition against gambling. It will lead you to incur expenses beyond our earning capacity.) It should not be practiced by government officials to avoid corruption,” Cho said.
Cho said she has yet to discuss with the Department of the Interior and Local Government in Central Visayas (DILG-7) what action they would take against Pogoy, but it was likely that the councilor would face an administrative case.
DILG-7 Regional Director Rene Burdeos, reached by phone interview on Friday evening, however said he would reserve his comment until Monday as he still has to look into the matter.
Bayate, meanwhile, would not only face charges for violation of PD 1869 and Memorandum Circular No.6 signed by President Duterte in September 2016 but also an internal probe by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
PD 1869, also known as the Pagcor Charter, specified persons who are not allowed to play inside casinos, including government officials connected directly with the operation of the government or any of its agencies; members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police; persons under 21 years of age or students of any school, college or university in the Philippines.
Memorandum Circular No. 6, on the other hand, enjoined all government officials and employees to “strictly observe and comply with the prohibition against going to gambling casinos,” pursuant to Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”
Bayate, who was caught red handed playing with a slot machine inside the Casino Filipino Cebu, which is located within the Crown Regency Hotel in uptown Cebu City, has been relieved from her post.
Tan said Bayate, even if she obtained temporary liberty by posting bail, would still have to face an administrative case and an internal investigation.
Tan added that if the CCPO would roll out its next edition of the “Balik Eskwela” program, he would recommend that Bayate be included as part of her rehabilitation program since gambling is considered an addiction and that she might benefit from the counseling that the program provides.
For Senior Supt. Dennis Agustin, deputy regional director for operations of the PRO-7, police officers caught gambling in casinos should be arrested and be made to face the consequences of their actions. He said they should be immediately investigated and relieved from their positions.
Agustin said PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa was clear in his directive to arrest government employees caught inside gambling casinos.
He said the arrest of Bayate and Pogoy should serve as an example to other government officials.
Tuburan Mayor Democrito Diamante, the president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Cebu Federation, meanwhile, has also taken his hands off Pogoy’s case, saying that the councilor would need to face the legal implications of violating President Duterte’s executive order that bans public servants from getting inside casinos.
“Actually, mao gyud na ang order sa atong Presidente. Gi-sugo na ang atong PNP (Philippine National Police) nga mag-monitor sa mga pasugalan. So if appointed man ka or elected, ayaw na lang gyud. Mas maayo nga mulikay ta (Actually, that was the order of the President. He directed the PNP to monitor gambling houses. So whether you’re an appointed or an elected official, don’t even try. It’s better if we avoid it),” said Diamante.
The President’s move, he added, was a welcome development, as it might curb corruption in the public sector.
However, Diamante also urged law enforcers to follow due process when conducting raids, similar to the one they did in the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Cebu.
“Dapat inbestigahon sad ni nila labi niana tung konsehal nga natimingan lang daw siya ngadto. Tagaan sad ni sila og due process para mapatinood nga wala ra diay sila nagsugal (That should be investigated especially since the councilor claimed he just happened to be there when the raid happened. Let’s give them due process to prove that they weren’t there to gamble),” said Diamante.
Cebu 6th district Rep. Jonas Cortes, on whose district Cordova belongs, likewise refrained from issuing a statement when reached on Saturday, saying he has no full knowledge yet of the incident that led to Pogoy’s arrest.
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