EVEN behind bars, a detained ex-mayor of Aklan has shown he can enjoy special liberties.
Assistant City Prosecutor Gandhi Truya, who handles the murder case against Alfredo Arsenio, said he wasn’t surprised to learn that the inmate was seen having lunch in a restaurant.
“He’s been a recipient of several favors before,” said Truya.
He said he noticed Arsenio wasn’t even handcuffed as he walked out of the courtroom after a hearing in the Palace of Justice last Wednesday.
Truya said the ex-mayor used to request the court to allow him to go home to Aklan to register as a voter and vote during the elections.
Another prosecutor said this was a clear example of “special treatment” of inmates who are powerful and well-off.
“Look at poor prisoners when they attend court hearings here. They bring with them bread and eat them handcuffed,” said Assistant State Prosecutor Llena Ipong-Avila.
As head implementor of the witness protection program of the Department of Justice (DOJ), she expressed dismay at the loopholes in the jail system.
“The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the transfer of Arsenio’s case from Aklan to Cebu (in 2008). He must be influential,” she said in an interview.
Witnesses had identified Arsenio as the one who shot broadcaster Gerson Hinolan near a carnival in Kalibo, Aklan, on Nov. 13, 2004. The Bombo Radyo dyIN station manager was hit in the abdomen and arms, causing his death after two days. Arsenio denied the charge, saying he was home at the time of the killing.
Avila said she couldn’t understand the lax security for the ex-mayor.
“The fact that he (Arsenio) is accused of murder . . . What if he escaped? I’m disappointed with our jail system. There are indeed loopholes in the system,” the prosecutor said.
“The accused should be secured well. That’s the job of jail guards,” she said.
The witnesses in the murder case are under the DOJ’s witness protection program.
“I pity the jail guard. The lawyer should have been prudent enough to do what he has to do. He (Musico) just wanted to please his client. As a lawyer, he should have been careful. That was irresponsible of him,” said Avila.
“Prisoners can’t go just anywhere. Why didn’t the lawyer bring a packed lunch with him and deliver it to the jail?”
Last year, there were reports that Arsenio left the provincial jail to attend a fiesta in his hometown. His former lawyer Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu denied the report.
She said she let go of her client over a year ago after Arsenio tapped another counsel who acted without her knowledge.
“I had to give way. As a lawyer, it’s always my stand that I should have full control over the case,” Dalawampu said.
Upon learning that Arsenio was seen eating in a restaurant without a court order, Dalawampu said this was “bad and dangerous for him.”
After witnessing the lunch that Wednesday, Cebu Daily News and a TV5 news crew approached Arsenio outside the restaurant for an interview. He started to talk, but his lawyer advised him not grant an interview.
A thick wad of money bills was handed to Arsenio by a male aide. Arsenio waived off the jail guard who approached to put the handcuffs on him, saying he still had to count his money.
He allowed the guard to handcuff him afterward.
It was the family of slain broadcaster Hinolan who tipped off reporters about the ex-mayor’s whereabouts since they happened to be eating in a restaurant next to Sabel’s Restaurant.
State Prosecutor Hazel Valdez said, “The prosecution is very happy to learn that the provincial government shows commitment to the rule of law by making these jail guards accountable for their misdeeds and by indicating that no special treatment is extended to detainees because they happen to be politicians.” /By Ador Vincent Mayol and Patricia Andrea Pateña