The Western Visayas police released an alleged Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) leader due to confusion on his identity.
The release of Baltasar Saldo, 54, of Sto. Angel, Dumalag, Capiz came a few hours after he was presented to the media by the Police Regional Office in Western Visayas (PRO 6) on Monday morning.
Saldo was arrested on Sunday afternoon in Capiz.
During the media presentation, a masked witness identified Saldo as Virgilio Paragan alias “Hassan”, a former commanding officer of the Roger Mahinay Command, Komiteng Rehiyong-Negros.
Paragan is facing two attempted murder and two murder charges filed in various regional trial courts in Negros Island.
“I was convinced to present him because there is this witness who is pointing at the suspect who is the one whose name is indicated in the warrants of arrest (for two attempted murder and two murder charges),” Brig. Gen. John Bulalacao, PRO 6 regional director, said in an interview with the media.
Bulalacao said the witness is the son of a former rebel under the command of Paragan.
However, after the media presentation, the arrested alleged NPA head was released after he appeared before the Kabankalan City Prosecutor’s Office as the fiscal was unsatisfied with the statement of the police witness.
Police reports show a relative of Paragan was at the prosecutor’s office when the suspect was presented and said Saldo and Paragan is not one and the same person.
Bulalacao said Saldo was released as the witness still needs to take more legal actions against the suspect “to convince the fiscal to commit the suspect to jail”. The witness is not among the complainants against Paragan.
Despite the confusion, Bulalacao said the situation is a “normal occurrence” in police operations.
“There is a witness and the police should act on it. Much more, the person has long been wanted and the police are eager to arrest him,” he said.
ARMY ON HUNT.
Meanwhile, Capt. Cenon Pancito, Philippine Army’s 3rd infantry Division spokesperson, said yesterday the Army will still continue to go after the real Virgilio Paragan.
“We are intensifying our investigation by looking into the chronology of events of how the witness came forward, just to validate,” Pancito said in a phone interview.
He said the Army is on “stand by” for the witness to file necessary documents before Kabankalan City Prosecutors Office.
“The police coordinated with the witness to file the necessary complaint before the Kabankalan City Prosecutors Office so that his accounts will be recorded or documented,” he said.
He clarified that Paragan is still at-large while Saldo will still be investigated.
“We will try to get more witnesses and investigate whether Saldo and Paragan is one and the same person, or it was indeed a mistaken identity,” he said.
Paragan was recommended by Police Regional 7 to be included on the “Directorate for Intelligence List of Wanted Persons”.
He was also elevated and listed under the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of the National Defense (DILG-DND) Joint Order on CNN (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front)/Terrorist Wanted Person with P1,050,000 cash bounty.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.* (Gail Momblan via NDB)