CHR-7 probe into Sawang Calero controversy ‘on the rocks’
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The fate of the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) investigation on the controversy surrounding some cops in Sawang Calero Police Station is now in limbo.
Leo Villarino, CHR-7 chief investigator, said the death of Ritchie Nepomuceno is a ‘major setback’ in their probe on allegations of rape and extortion against 11 police officers from the Sawang Calero Police Station (Police Station 6) here.
“This is a major setback since Ritchie is our main complainant against the (11) police officers. As of this point, we’re hoping other witnesses to stand so we can still pursue our investigations,” said Villarino on Tuesday, April 20.
Nepomuceno, 35, was gunned down by still unidentified assailants along N. Bacalso Avenue, Barangay Basak-Pardo, Cebu City on Monday afternoon, April 19, 2021.
Hours after the incident, Police Staff Sergeant Celso Colita, one of the 11 Sawang Calero cops facing charges of rape and extortion, allegedly killed himself inside the bathroom belonging to the Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit within Camp Sergio Osmeña.
Nepomuceno, a resident of Barangay Tungkil in Minglanilla town, south Cebu, lodged complaints of rape and extortion against 11 police officers from Sawang Calero Police Station last March.
But Villarino on Tuesday said Nepumoceno did not accept the offer to be placed in the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“We already advised her to avail of the Witness Protection Program but she was not willing to, and we cannot force her if that’s her choice,” he said in Cebuano.
The CHR-7 executive also said they told her to enroll in WPP after she reported receiving ‘threats’ from Colita following her decision to formally file cases against him and 10 other police officers.
“We haven’t seen the exact messages but based on what she relayed to us, the gist goes like this: ‘Magbantay ka. Kuhaon gyud tika. Sundon gyud tika’,” Villarino said. (Watch out. I will get you. I will really follow you.)
The accused policemen have already been relieved from their posts since March. Sawang Calero Police Station’s chief, Police Major Eduard Sanchez, was also told to temporarily leave his post while investigation is ongoing.
RELATED STORY: 11 Sawang Calero cops relieved for extortion, rape
The incident also opened the floodgates for more complainants to come forward to CHR-7 and the police’s Integrity Monitoring Enhancement Group in the Visayas (IMEG – Visayas) to report abuses they allegedly suffered under the hands of some cops in Sawang Calero.
Most of them also told authorities of being held for days inside a ’secret jail’ within the police station where they claim to have been tortured.
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