BY ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila)—A photojournalist of the People’s Journal spent his weekend at the Baguio City Jail for a simple vehicular accident row.
Charged with grave threats, People’s Journal photojournalist Cesar Reyes already spent his Friday night at the Community Police Office (Compac) at Upper Session Road but has to spend the rest of the weekend at the Baguio City Jail after the inquest fiscal said that he is charged with grave threats as well as illegal possession of firearms.
“I didn’t even know that there was already an inquest,” said Reyes who covers the police beat for the national tabloid.
The vehicular accident reportedly resulted in an altercation between Reyes and a driver later identified as Jaime Caccam Thursday night.
Reyes was about to leave aboard his Toyota Lite Ace van before 11 p.m. after several drinks at a restaurant along Session Road when he hit the “Edrin & Dave” Kia Pride taxi owned by a certain Cesar Abrigo and driven by Caccam. The taxi driver was about to join the long queue near the junction of Mabini Street all the way to the taxi stand at Mercury Drug some 50 meters away.
Caccam immediately alighted from his taxi and confronted Reyes and at the same time called for back up, which came and was led by the taxi operator, Abrigo.
At least three responded to his call and confronted Reyes, allegedly pushing him. This, he said, prompted him to draw his gun to warn Abrigo and his colleagues to back off.
Responding police came after a few minutes and Reyes met with them to surrender his gun as well as its papers.
“He sat in front of the restaurant and approached the police when they arrived,” said a worker from the Luisa’s Café.
But it did not end there.
The driver and his companion said that Reyes was at fault and he was lying through his teeth when he said that he had not started the engine yet when the accident happened, since he had hit the approaching vehicle of Caccam who was then furiously sounding his horn.
Investigating policemen were rendered speechless even as the three shouted their complaints against Reyes.
Reyes then agreed to join the police who invited him to the Compac office up Session Road, where he agreed to pay Abrigo P2,000 to settle the incident.
At 3 a.m., thinking that everything was all right, Reyes was brought to the Baguio City Police Office where he stayed for another two hours and was asked to be fingerprinted.
By 5 a.m., he was brought back to the Compac where he stayed.
At past 12, his wife Lita sent one of their children to bring the agreed settlement money of P2,000 which was received by Abrigo.
Still, he was asked to stay until 3 p.m. when he was brought to the BCPO once again. There he was told that everything will be settled and that he can get his belongings.
But the cases were already filed against him before the Prosecutor’s Office and by 5 p.m., he was transferred to the City Jail where he stayed starting Friday.
“I was not provided with a lawyer. The inquest proceeded without me being rightfully represented,” said Reyes.
Asked about the gun-toting incident, Reyes said that he drew his gun to warn Abrigo and his colleagues to back off.
“I had the nozzle pointed down, I didn’t point it at them. It was for my protection because they were just too many and I was threatened. What will you do if four men approach you from all directions with the threat to harm you?” he said.
Reyes got his license for the gun only last April. It was issued at the Philippine National Police (PNP )head office at Camp Crame, which he also covered as a photojournalist.
Reyes was left speechless as Abrigo and his two colleagues took turns verbally attacking him while the cops tried to verify their claims before he was brought to the Compac office.
“Maybe, he committed some mistakes but that does not mean that we will take things sitting down. His rights were already violated (because he was not) provided with a lawyer while being subjected to inquest,” said Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club President Pigeon Lobien, who personally observed what happened after the alleged gun-toting incident.
Baguio City Police Director S/Supt. Wilfredo Franco said that the two cases filed against Reyes go hand in hand and that though his gun is licensed, “still it was used to commit a crime.”
Councilor Richard Cariño, who acted as legal counsel for the beleaguered mediaman, said that there is no crime since Reyes is not yet convicted. “I feel outraged for what they have done to Mr. Reyes. We will fight back,” said Cariño, who personally went to the house of inquest fiscal Ruth Bernabe to demand that Reyes be released or that he be granted bail.
Cariño said that the cops went over board in detaining Reyes. In the first place, he said, they had to determine if there were public complainants for grave threats and apart from that, Reyes also had the complete papers for his gun.
“We also have to ask the complainant if he actually retracted his complaint because he took the money (P2,000) for the settlement, with which he agreed that everything was settled,” he added.
Allegedly, Reyes’ case is special as police said that he had already been involved in a gun-toting incident two years ago, which he denied. “In the nine years that I carried a gun, never did I use (it) against any person,” said the 49-year-old journalist. (Bulatlat)