NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
A complaint for direct assault, resistance, and disobedience to an agent of persons in authority filed by a Police Officer of the 702nd Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB)7 against 73-year-old former Panglao Mayor Toribio Bon was dismissed by the Provincial Prosecution Office, Tagbilaran City for lack of probable cause.
In a 12-page joint resolution on June 27, 2022, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Godwin B. Gamas also junked the complaints for obstruction of justice against then Panglao Municipal Councilor and now Vice-Mayor Noel Hormachuelos, Atty. Francis Erick Delambaca, husband of then-candidate for councilor and now Municipal Councilor Daisy Delambaca and the son of the ex-mayor, Toribio Fernandez “TJ” Bon III, for lack of probable cause.
The incident occurred on the morning of May 9, 2022, election day at the voting center located in Tangnan Elementary School.
RFMB7 member Police Corporal (PCPL) Marcleen Pastrano filed the formal complaint against Bon with five other members of the battalion identified as Patrolmen Nino Bucog, John Arnel Bungcasan, Nick Cabildo and Jemar Jaluag, and PCPL Ireneo Lood, Jr. of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Panglao Police Station.
Bon, who served as Panglao mayor (1998-2001) and vice mayor (1995-1998) was accused by Pastrano on behalf of his four colleagues, members of the RMFB7 and Lood, Jr. of the PNP of “angrily shouting, attempting to spit at his face, blocked the road with his vehicle and grabbed my firearm,” and “resisted the arrest of PCPL Lood.”
Pastrano, in his complaint-affidavit, claimed that Hormachuelos, Delambacal, and TJ Bon intervened to prevent Bon from being arrested leading to his “successfully eluding arrest.”
However, PNP officers failed to convince the Prosecutor that Bon and his companions “really made an attack, employed force, made serious intimidation or made a serious resistance” against them.
According to the joint resolution, contrary to the allegations of the police officers that Bon “challenged them to shoot him and grabbed the firearm of one of the policemen is not at all consistent with what is shown in the video file submitted to the undersigned.”
Relying heavily on the 2 minutes and 20 seconds viral video footage posted by the Bohol Chronicle Facebook page, the prosecutor established that the police officers “had the upper hand being all heavily armed against outnumbered and unarmed intervening civilians . . “
With the incontrovertible facts shown in the video footage, Bon and his co-respondents, with the assistance of their legal counsel, Atty. Aleck Francis Lim argued that “who in his right mind would grab a firearm from a police officer who was carrying a long firearm strapped in his body, more so, when there were six of them who were all heavily armed.”
“Why on earth would I,” according to Bon in his counter-affidavit, “a senior citizen with several health issues/problems due to old age, would grab a long firearm of a police officer, who was also with five other heavily armed police officers? It would be the height of stupidity to do so.”
“I even religiously take my medicines and have been living a healthy life so I could spend more time here on earth with my wife and two children,” said Bon in his affidavit.
The police officers alleged that responding to a “troubled alarm” they received, a six-man team composed of four members of the RMFB7 and a PNP officer went to Tangnan Elementary School in Barangay Tangnan, Panglao.
However, Bon told the prosecutor that the police officers were already stationed at the voting center located at the Tangnan Elementary School when he arrived to cast his vote.
Bon told the prosecutor that Delambaca, Hormachuelos, Benedict Alcala and several voters were at the roadside discussing the ongoing vote-buying activity around the precinct prompting him to report the incident to the police officers who were milling nearby.
According to Bon, the police officers ignored his report and even asked him for evidence to support his claim of vote buying, to which he responded “what evidence do you need when you can easily see those persons openly buying votes.”
To his surprise, Bon said that PCPL Lood ordered the police officers “ikarga na sa patrol car (haul him to the patrol car)” and was manhandled and forced to get inside the police car and was threatened by Lood “Ayaw na ug resist kay ug dili ka mosakay pusilon ka namo. Patyon gyud ka namo (If you keep on resisting we will shoot you. We will kill you).”
According to Bon, he suffered multiple abrasions on his knees and posterior forearm as a result of the rough treatment from the police officers who even tried to snap handcuffs around his wrists.
Prosecutor Gamas rebuked the police officers for appearing to have “lied and only made things up” even as their lone witness recanted his testimony alleging that “he was not properly interviewed when the affidavit was drafted and found out later that it contained facts that are not consistent with what really transpired,” adding that “Mr. Bon did not really grab a firearm from a police officer.”
Gamas reminded the police officers that ” even if the public officer has the legal duty to detain a person, the public officer must be able to show the existence of legal grounds for the detention.”
On Bon’s alleged unruly behavior, the prosecutor pointed out that the former mayor was “only acting on his natural impulse to resist arbitrary detention,” and the police cannot arrest someone without legal grounds “and then cry foul if that person fights back for his freedom.”
Lastly, the prosecutor stressed that the participation of Hormachuelos, Delambaca, and “TJ” Bon “did not amount to facilitating the escape of Toribio Bon,” as alleged by the police complainant, but as shown in the video, “the police just “let go” of Bon after the three showed up and intervened.
The joint resolution was recommended for approval by Eric M. Ucat, Deputy Provincial Prosecutor and approved by Nilo G. Ahat, Provincial Prosecutor. (Chito M. Visarra)