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FIRING LINE: Lucky Sanvicentes

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Let’s get this straight. So, the mystery driver of the white Toyota RAV-4 who bumped and knocked down a security guard, then unapologetically ran over him and fled the scene disappeared with his vehicle for 10 days while various authorities were after him; then, he surfaced at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Headquarters in Camp Crame with his lawyer, his mom and his dad, was given the audience of the PNP’s top official and the media, surrendered the vehicle in question, and then got off scot-free.

Meantime, the victim could hardly walk, his insides swelling and painful from the horrible injury he sustained.

No wonder people are disgusted.

Criminal law professor Ted Te, sharing his expert view, says the driver could have been immediately arrested even without a warrant on the basis of hot pursuit. Even below the top fold of the PNP, investigators and operations agents say they do that all the time with a positively identified suspect.

But regularity aside, the case of frustrated murder and violation of Article 275 (2) – abandonment of persons in danger and abandonment of one’s own victim – was filed by the Mandaluyong City Police prior to suspect Jose Antonio Sanvicente making his grand appearance at the PNP press briefing so “technically,” without yet probable cause determined and a subsequent warrant from the court, no legal arrest could be made.

My question to Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao, Jr. is: “What’s your business as the highest-ranking PNP official hobnobbing with the hit-and-run suspect and his family?” It has given all the wrong signals at the height of the legal fact that while this guy was the faceless monster you’d been hunting down for 10 days, now, you could do nothing to lock him up.

Danao can have his spokesperson, Col. Jean Fajardo, deny any ties whatsoever exist between him and the Sanvicente family, but why even approach them? If I were the aggrieved party of security guard Christian Joseph Floralde, I’d pity my poor, injured, broken self. Heck, the OIC of the national police is patting shoulders, whispering, and extending his hand to touch the forehead of my attacker’s mom!

Senator Tito Sotto called this out and suggested that while the PNP was on the side of due process, it could have shown less favor to the suspect by making him undergo a drug test. He said under the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act, the police could have taken Sanvicente to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to check if he might have been on a banned substance. But then he knows that’s not how VIPs are treated.

I wish Sen. JV Ejercito, who pledged P50,000 for the identification leading to the arrest of the “evil” SUV driver, is not entertaining the thought of giving that sum to Danao – repeatedly credited by the Sanvicente family for their decision to “poof” right into the open. The senator, by the way, posted an interesting tweet, claiming that he “received info” that Sanvicente had allegedly stabbed an older person in a traffic altercation. Perhaps, Danao first needs P50,000 from Sen. JV to check that out?

Public perception, though, is punishing the Sanvicente family, mainly on account of the Abogado.com report that the suspect’s father, Joel, was acquitted of the 1995 fatal shooting of businessman Dennis Wong over an altercation on Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. The Supreme Court ruling might have favored him, quite interestingly, on the ground of another “technicality,” but that won’t stop netizens from saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and wishing justice be served cold.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.thephilbiznews.com

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