CIDG sues security officer for terrorism, robbery with extortion

Melvin Claro, who works as security officer of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) detailed at the Mindanao geothermal production field in Mount Apo, was arrested four days after the Davao Metro Shuttle Bus Company, one of the biggest bus companies plying the Davao-General Santos route, deposited some P25T in his bank account. The account was traced in one of the banks here.

Claro denied the allegations.

Intelligence reports said that the deposit made by Metro Shuttle on February 4 to Claro's account was the second since last year.  The first was on Dec 3, 2007 when suspected members of Al Khobar started extorting money from the company.

The robbery with extortion complaints were filed at the Kidapawan City Prosecution Office, while complaints on terrorism were filed at the prosecution office in General Santos City.

Claro was accused of terrorism because of his alleged involvement in the latest explosion in General Santos City that killed four and injured 28 others.

The charge sheet also included 20 others believed to be members and operatives of the Al Khobar.

The Al Khobar admitted it was their group that masterminded the explosion. The group has also been extorting protection money from the local government of General Santos City.

But Claro denied all the accusations hurled against him. He told authorities he did not withdraw such amount.  According to him, somebody borrowed his automated teller machine (ATM) card sometime in December last year.

He declined to identify the borrower.

His wife, Sonia, is bent on filing charges against police and Army officers for arresting him without a warrant.

Sonia said unidentified armed men believed to be members of a police intelligence unit abducted  her husband along Osmeña Drive here late Friday afternoon. She said she was with Melvin when  he was snatched at gunpoint by three armed men and ordered to board a stainless jeep without a plate number.

Sonia said she was certain her husband's abductors were members of an intelligence agency of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The local PNP, however, denied involvement in the incident. "I still have to check with other units. As far as I'm concerned, I don't know anything about that," said Chief Insp. Leo Ajero, city PNP director on February 9.

Sonia said she could not think of any reason why authorities were after her husband except that "he is married to me who is a relative of a suspected bomber."

Sonia is a first cousin of Muhalidin Hassan who was arrested on Nov. 22, 2007 for his alleged participation in the KMCC Mall bombing that occurred on the same day. The bombing killed a mall employee and injured eight others.

Claro's relatives said he was denied legal assistance and visit of immediate family while under the custody of his arresting officers for three days — clear violations, they said,  of RA 7438, an act which defines the rights of person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation.

The complaints against Claro were filed Monday. He was nabbed Friday.

But Sr. Supt. Lester Camba, provincial director of the Cotabato Provincial Police Office, said there was nothing illegal in the arrest.

Claro, he explained, was arrested while operatives were in hot pursuit of him.  The operations started in December when intelligence reports identified Claro as one of Al Khobar's financial conduits in North Cotabato.

Kidapawan City Prosecutor Al Calica, also head of the Special Anti-Terrorism Task Force of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao, said Claro was placed under inquest proceedings.

Claro was the third suspected Al Khobar operatives arrested since November last year.   The other two — identified as Alex Sanduyugan and Muhalidin Hassan, both residents of Barangay Nuangan this city — were arrested hours after the KMCC Mall bombing here on Nov 22, 2007. Hassan is the relative of Claro's wife.  (MindaNews)