By: Jennifer P. Rendon
A FORMER New People’s Army (NPA) commander with a string of criminal charges was arrested afternoon of June 23, 2019 in Dumalag, Capiz.
Police and military operatives collared Baltasar Saldo, 54, of Barangay Sto. Angel, Dumalag.
Authorities said Saldo is the former commanding officer of the Roger Mahinay Command of the New People’s Army’s Komiteng Rehiyon – Negros.
Saldo, who also went by the name Virgilio Paragan alias Hassan while in the NPA movement, is a respondent and the subject of at least four criminal charges:
-Criminal Case Numbers 2004-3623 and 2004-3630 for attempted murder issued by the late Judge Henry Arles of Regional Trial Court 6, Branch 61 , Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Dec. 1, 2004;
-CC No. 04-019 for murder issued by Judge Mario Trinidad of RTC-7 Branch 64 in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental on Dec. 13, 2004; and
-CC Nos. Number 04-020-C for murder and 04-021-C for attempted murder issued by Judge Rosendo Bandal, Jr. of RTC-7, Branch 64 in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental on March 11, 2004.
Due to the numerous cases filed against him, the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 in Central Visayas recommended Saldo’s inclusion in the PNP Directorate for Intelligence’s most wanted list.
His “wanted status” was elevated to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of the National Defense (DILG-DND) Joint Order on CNN/Terrorist Wanted Person with a P1,050,000 cash reward.
But Police Brigadier General John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police chief, said Saldo could be facing other charges.
“The investigators are still digging into the possibility that he may have been involved in other criminal cases because of his active participation and being a commander of a unit of the NPA in Negros Oriental,” he said.
Saldo went into hiding after authorities went hot on his trail.
“That’s why we are appealing to those who might have known about the suspect’s involvement in criminal cases to please appear before our office so that we can still file charges against him to give justice to his victims,” Bulalacao said.
Captain Cenon Pancito III, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said Army troops in Negros Island had not wavered in its efforts to locate Saldo, who was believed to be active in the rebel movement between 2000 – 2004.
“He was responsible for an incident involving a Ceres bus and ambush on our personnel,” he said.
Saldo went on hiatus from the rebel movement and stayed in Dumalag town for 10 years. He used his original name while in Dumalag where he worked for a businessman.
Saldo was a driver and an errand man for the unnamed business until his arrest on Sunday.
Bulalacao said Saldo kept his real identity very well.
“We tracked him after we identified someone who could identify him,” he said.
In yesterday’s press conference, a “masked” man positively identified Saldo as the person who was involved in murder and attempted murder charges in Negros.
The witness is a son of a former rebel under Saldo’s command who surrendered but was killed by persons who identified themselves as NPA members.
Bulalacao said the witness will be one of the persons who will share the P1.05-million reward.
Amidst the allegations and positive identification, Saldo denied the accusations against him.
Saldo, who has two children, claimed to be an ordinary truck driver and has not been in Negros Island.
In a short talk with Bulalacao, Saldo insisted on his innocence.