Nov. 11-17, 2010

By Cha Monforte

(Nov. 11)-The four traffic enforcers arrested by National Bureau of Investigation agents last week for alleged violation of the Comelec’s gun ban were released Tuesday afternoon after posting bail bond worth P12,000 each of them in the sala of Regional Trial Court Branch 1 Judge Virginia Ang.

Released on bail were traffic enforcers Pacifico Bantayan Jr., Ariel Bardinas, Rodolfo Rodinas Jr. and Cyrian Vin Lenueva of the Tagum City Traffic Management Unit.

They were arrested by still unidentified NBI agents Thursday last week for carrying cal. 45 handguns, a charge refuted by City Mayor Rey Uy who said that they have been authorized to carry firearms by the city government citing also that they have been helping in law enforcement in city.

“May armas man gani ang security guard nga establishment lang ang ginabantayan, sila pa nga nagabantay para sa seguridad sa syudad,” he said in a radio interview this Thursday with DXDN Radyo Ukay Tagum anchorman Ruel Dagsangan.

He also laughed off the issue that he has been making the armed traffic officers and CSU men as his personal goons saying that they have been only armed “necessarily”, “with complete papers” for them to help secure the city in view of the limited number of policemen in the city.

He said that the city has only over 90 policemen and for three shifts in a day only over 30 of them are securing the city in each 8-hour shift.

“Dili gyod makaya sa atong kapulisan, that’s why mi-hire ta ug mga CSU ug traffic aides,” he said.

The mayor added that it is natural that some traffic enforcers and those in the Civil Security Unit have to be armed as they have risks and threats stemming from their work.

He also questioned why the NBI agents made the arrest when the handguns had long been issued to traffic officers 12 years ago.

As to the arresting NBI agents, the mayor said that cases would be filed against them while the city government’s support to the NBI Tagum office would be stopped “kay nabastos ta, way respeto”.

His lawyers are preparing at presstime what charges to lodge against the arresting NBI agents.

He said he would not let it just pass without the NBI agents being sued saying that on the contrary he has been supportive to various national agencies operating in the city including the NBI.

As to the issue that the city traffic officers have been apprehending vans to protect his family’s transportation business in Metro Shuttle buses, Mayor Uy said: “yes, kay legal man, kinsa man diay ang akong protektahan? (yes, since it’s legally operating. Who should I protect then?)” adding that his protection of legal buses covers not only those of the Metro Shuttle but also those of the Bachelor, Diboa, CC Liner, Del Norte Fighters and others.

In fact, he said, the bus owners have been elated by his move in upholding the law.

He said that passengers’ vans from Monkayo and Butuan City which have no terminal in the city can only pass through the city’s highway section.

Last Tuesday city general services officer Ananias Darjan Jr retrieved a Mitsubishi Adventure vehicle earlier lent by the mayor to the NBI Tagum office. He said he acted on order of the mayor apparently in response to what the NBI did.

NBI Tagum officers manning the office immediately gave the key of the vehicle to GSO personnel but not after they had siphoned off its gasoline from the tank.

As this developed, traffic officers under the command of TCTMU chief Marcos Villanueva have tightened watch in the city’s highway section from past curbada area in the north (going to Butuan City) and past the corner road going to Medical Mission hospital in the south (going to Davao City).

TCTMU personnel have been in full force along the highway section since Friday and until presstime, causing passengers’ vans to just pass the city’s highway or discreetly and swiftly dropped Tagum-bound passengers in interior roads and in what the drivers believed to be unwatched areas that inevitably had them apprehended by pursuing or stalking trafficmen who are already unarmed.

Reports said that already over 100 plying passengers’ vans have been apprehended for violating the terminal-to-terminal provision of no-picking up and no-loading of passengers under the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board Memorandum Circular 2007-007.

The NBI agents arrested the four TCTMU personnel a day after when TCMU officers disallowed taxis that have been parking and soliciting passengers infront the Mercury Drug and Cuntapay building at the city’s crossing.

One of the taxis was apprehended as its driver tried to drove off causing the TCMU to bring the unit and the driver to the Land Transportation Office-Tagum, said traffic chief Villanueva in earlier reports.

The arrested traffic enforcers were manning their respective posts along the national highway in Barangay Magugpo Poblacion when two vehicles, a van and a pickup truck suddenly arrived past 4 p.m. Thursday.

Armed men with shirts and jackets marked with NBI accosted them and confiscated their firearms, radios and cellular phones and were herded to the vehicles which sped off to the regional NBI office in Davao City, a Philippine Daily Inquirer report said.

Mayor Uy lashed at the arresting NBI agents in an interview with the media saying that it was motivated by personal interest and without respect to city authorities.

Reports have it that one of the taxis or vans that had been apprehended is owned by an NBI agent.

But lawyer Max Salvador, NBI Davao regional chief, denied allegations the operation was biased and personal.

“It was just a simple case of gun ban violation (on the part of the traffic enforcers) and not about us protecting or retaliating for one of our own…It’s a non-issue actually. Whether they’re apprehended on Sept. 25 or Nov. 4, it’s still the same gun ban violation,” he said over a TV interview.

“We will really file an administrative case (against the NBI men). They did not respect our law enforcers. They whisked the men to their office in Davao City instead of turning them over to the nearest police station,” Mayor Uy earlier said. (Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte with DXDN Radyo Ukay Tagum, PDI with reports)



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