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Aguirre suspends Manila top prosecutor for not releasing 3 individuals cleared of drug raps

Published June 17, 2017 9:48pm

By VIRGIL LOPEZ, GMA News

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has suspended for 90 days Manila City Prosecutor Edward Togonon
for not releasing three people from police custody despite the dismissal of the charges against them.

On Saturday, Aguirre said he suspended Togonon because the prosecutor failed to follow Department
Circular No. 4, which allows a respondent in cases involving violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act to walk out of detention even if the case is pending for automatic review before the
Department of Justice (DOJ).

The suspension order took effect last week.

Taking Togonons place for the meantime is Atty. Alexander Ramos, director of the DOJs Witness
Protection Program and a fraternity brother of Aguirre and President Rodrigo Duterte in San Beda
College of Law-based Lex Talionis Fraternitas, Inc.

Togonons woes stemmed from a television report last April about 61-year-old Api Ang who died due to
an illness while in custody of the Manila Police District (MPD) despite the dismissal of the drugs raps
against him and his three companions.

Api Ang, Betty Chan, Luz Chan, and Henry Go Bernales were arrested on November 21, 2016 after
authorities conducted a raid on Angs unit at Good Life Hotel in Sta, Cruz, Manila.

Seized from the raid were illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and ammunition.

Records from the Manila Prosecutor's Office, however, seem to justify Ang's continued detentionas he
was already charged with cases for possession of illegal drugs and violation of the Comprehensive Law
on Firearms and Ammunition (Republic Act 10591).

The cases were filed with the Manila Regional Trial Court on February 9, two months before his death
due to acute coronary syndrome.

In a resolution dated January 30, the Manila Prosecutor's Office said there was "no doubt that Ang
exercised control and dominion over the place where the alleged illegal drugs and ammunition were
recovered."

"As admitted by him, he is a resident of Room 201," the resolution stated.

The complaints for violation of RA 9165, RA 10591 and obstruction of justice against Betty Chan, Luz
Chan, and Bernales were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

Issue on releasing authority

Complying with Aguirre's order for an explanation, Togonon maintained that Ang could not be released
from jail because cases were already filed in court.
As for Betty Chan, Luz Chan and Bernales, Togonon said he did not order their release from detention
since it is allegedly not clear from the DOJ circular which between the Investigating Prosecution Office
and the Office of Secretary should order the release.

Otherwise stated, it is not expressly provided therein that the Investigating Prosecution Office or the
Investigating Prosecutor shall release of cause the release of the respondents prior to the elevation of
the case to the Office of the Secretary of Justice (OSEC), Togonon said in a letter dated May 12.

Secondly, the resolution on their case is not yet final as it is subject to automatic review of your office.
Taking into account that the resolution of this office thereon is purely recommendatory and can be, thus,
modified or even reversed by your office, prudence dictates that we leave the matter of releasing the
other respondents from detention to your sound discretion, he added.

Aguirre, however, appeared to be dissatisfied with Togonons explanation.

[T]here is no violation with respect to Api Ang, the one who died. The violation pertains to his (Ang)
companions. The department circular is very clear as to his (Togonon) obligation to release (the other
respondents), the Cabinet official said. MDM, GMA News