Saturday, December 24, 2011

Appeals court upholds dismissal of slain hostage taker Rolando Mendoza

Former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez were legally correct in dismissing hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza from the Philippine National Police, according to justices of the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals Thirteenth Division, in a 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Francisco Acosta, affirmed the Ombudsman's decision to dimiss Mendoza from the police force and junked his petition for review. Associate Justices Magdangal De Leon and Angelita Gacutan concurred with Justice Acosta.

The appellate court affirmed that Mendoza and his fellow lawmen P/ Insp. Nelson Lagasca, SPO1 Nestor David, PO3 Wilson Gavino and PO2 Roderick Lopeña committed "grave misconduct" when they tried "extorting" money from complainant and chef Christian Kalaw in April 2008. In his complaint, Kalaw accused Mendoza and the other police officers of extorting a total of more than P20,000 from him and forcing him to swallow "shabu" after being apprehended for a traffic violation.

“To warrant removal from office, settled is the rule that the misconduct must have a direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duties amounting either to maladministration or willful, intentional neglect and failure to discharge the duties of the office,” the CA said. “Besides, questions remain unanswered: We could not understand why the petitioners extendedly kept or detained Kalaw in the police station when the purported basis was just a mere traffic violation, i.e., illegal parking and/or driving without required license; and why the petitioners put so much attention on Kalaw’s alleged traffic violations when primarily it is their job to apprehend traffic violators in the City of Manila,” the decision said.

Kalaw eventually filed charges against the policemen in April 2008, but the PNP's Internal Affairs Service recommended the dismissal of the case in October of the same year after the complainant failed to attend the proceedings’ hearings. The case reached the Office of the Ombudsman, which ultimately ordered Mendoza's dismissal from service. Mendoza moved for the reconsideration of the ruling but the Ombudsman denied it.

In the morning of August 23, 2010, Mendoza hijacked a Hong Thai Travel bus, declared a hostage situation, and demanded his reinstatement in the police force. The standoff lasted for 11 hours and resulted in the deaths of eight tourists. Police snipers fatally shot Mendoza when they raided the bus. Mendoza had claimed Gonzalez demanded P150,000 so he [Mendoza] could be cleared from the charges. Gonzalez repeatedly denied the accusation. Last March, Malacañang announced Gonzalez's dismissal from service for gross neglect of duty and misconduct in office, for his alleged failure to promptly act on Mendoza's appeal, which was pending for nine months. — ELR, GMA News

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