The Philippine National Police will file illegal possession of explosive charges against an alleged ranking leader of the New People’s Army, who was arrested with a grenade in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, Friday.
The suspect was identified as Rene Bustamante, in his early 50s, married, of Catbalogan, Samar, and whose roots are in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Chief Insp. George Badon, chief of police of Tanjay City, said.
Bustamante has denied possession of the grenade in an interview yesterday in court. He claimed it was “planted” by law enforcers in his bag.
Bustamante is also known by the aliases of Jose Rene H. Bustamante, Jade B. Herevias and Jury Merecido, based on identification cards recovered from him. He was arrested at around 9:20 p.m. Friday on a bus at a checkpoint in Tanjay City by joint operatives of the city police and the Philippine Army.
Army officials identified Bustamante as the alleged secretary of the NPA’s South East Front of the Komiteng Rehiyon Negros, replacing Danilo Badayos, who was arrested, but died last year of a lingering illness.
Bustamante was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for murder, issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 41 Judge Gerardo Paguio, dated April 30, 2014. The warrant was against a certain John Doe “alias Pediong” and Julito Alban “alias Castor”.
Military and police officials later identified the “John Doe alias Pediong” as Bustamante, claiming that witnesses have confirmed his identity.
But Bustamante denied this, saying he is not “Pediong” and does not have any knowledge of the murder charge in Criminal Case No. 2014-22242, for the killing of Narciso Bantoto Jr., in an ambush perpetrated allegedly by the NPA on January 17, 2014, in Barangay Tayak, Siaton in Negros Oriental.
Bustamante, with his legal counsel, Joel Obar, and Jose Luis Blanco of the militant human rights group Karapatan, was presented to Judge Paguio yesterday at the Hall of Justice in Dumaguete.
Obar said he has filed a motion for Bustamante’s release because the warrant of arrest was questionable, as it does not specifically names his client as one of the two subjects.
He described it as a “John Doe warrant” and a “mad dog warrant” that can be applied to anybody. “It is a general warrant. Meaning, it could be just anybody (named as respondent) and it is a very dangerous warrant,” Obar, who introduced himself as chairman of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said.
He filed a motion for the release of Bustamante, and the hearing is set Wednesday at the RTC Branch 41.
Bustamante said he was “forcefully” arrested and brought to the police station in Tanjay. As for the grenade he said he saw it in the police station, and the police later reported it to be his.
Bustamante said there were no witnesses, and he had no legal counsel when the search was conducted.
On the alleged subversive documents confiscated from him, Bustamante said it is very easy to download these on the Internet and for someone like him “who cares for his country and is interested in its affairs”, he said it is normal to be reading about such matters.
Blanco said the will assist Bustamante and others in similar situation as part of their advocacy in the protection of human rights. He called the arrest tainted with political malice, and was unlawful.
Bustamante will be transferred to the Negros Oriental Detention and Rehabilitation Center after the issuance of a commitment order, Badon said.
He brushed aside Bustamante’s allegation about the “planting of evidence”, saying it is common for them to be hurling accusations against government officials.*JFP/JG
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