Manila, June 17, 2003 By Cecille Suerte Felipe (Star) The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has released the medico-legal chief earlier arrested for extortion. This, after the bureau failed to file formal charges within the period prescribed by law.

In the absence of formal charges against him, Dr. Maximo Reyes, relieved chief of the NBI Medico-Legal Division, the bureau has to let him go, said Alejandro Tenerife, NBI deputy director for technical services.

"The bureau has no choice but to release him from custody. Otherwise, we could be charged with illegal detention for holding him beyond the 36-hour period prescribed by law," Tenerife explained.

Aside from extortion and administrative charges, Reyes would be charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, either with the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Although caught red-handed, Tenerife said arresting NBI officers have yet to file formal charges against Reyes because they have yet to collect all the evidence to further boost the case.

Tenerife said evidence needed in filing of the case include the sworn statement of the complainant, the report of the chemist that examined the ultra-violent powder from Reyes’ hands and the after-operation reports by the arresting agents.

"I understand the sworn statement of the complainant is still with the police and the NBI is trying to secure them for filing of charges against Reyes," said Tenerife, who is the bureau’s deputy director with direct supervision on NBI’s technical services, including the Medico-Legal Division.

Last Wednesday, Reyes was apprehended in an entrapment operation by agents of the NBI-Special Task Force inside his office at the second floor of the NBI main headquarters on Taft Avenue, Manila.

Reyes was found positive of ultra-violet powder which came from the P200,000 allegedly handed over to him by Dr. Lenet Chan, the owner of a hospital in Carmen, Pangasinan.

Chan had requested Reyes to conduct an autopsy on a female patient, who died at her hospital apparently due to loss of blood or complications arising from a caesarian operation.

When Reyes had hinted about the possibility of overturning the result in her favor in exchange for a certain amount, Chan reported this to the police, which in turn referred the matter to the NBI.

Meanwhile, NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco is choosing between two NBI veteran doctors — Dr. Valentine Bernales and Dr. Renato Bautista — to replace Reyes, whom Wycoco relieved from his post after his arrest.

"Both are veterans in the bureau," Tenerife said. "We hope the (NBI) director makes an announcement soon."

Tenerife said Bernales is temporarily taking the place of Reyes in acting capacity so as not to delay or cripple of the division’s operations.

Somber mood

There was an unhappy mood at the medico-legal office yesterday, the first working day without Reyes as chief. He was arrested last Wednesday and the succeeding four days were considered holidays.

"You can’t blame us for being sorry for what happened. It’s like losing not just a member of the family, but a father," said an NBI officer assigned to the Medico Legal Office.

Just like other NBI officials, Tenerife was saddened by the incident. "He’s a jolly good fellow and he always acted swiftly on any request. I just told him to hire a good lawyer.

Ricardo Diaz of the NBI-International Police (Interpol) likened Reyes’ case to a cancer operation. "It hurts at first but in the long run it would be for the good of the bureau."

Diaz also brushed aside apprehension that Reyes’ release would allow him to go in hiding. "We already arrested him, I don’t think he would hide but if he does, the NBI will catch him.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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