MANILA – No less than the Malaysian terrorist Marwan, who for years operated in Mindanao, had performed the “wedding rites” in the Abu Sayyaf’s jungle lair between ASG member Reneer Lou Dongon and Police Supt. Maria Christina Nobleza, now both detained after authorities caught them on a mission to help embattled ASG members in Bohol.
The revelation of Marwan’s role in the life of Nobleza was among the interesting pieces of information shared with media by PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa on Thursday, even as he said they were taking with a grain of salt some of Nobleza’s replies to tactical interrogation.
Nobleza, 49, had apparently taken as lover the 25-year-old Dongon, whom she hired as driver after he was acquitted on a technicality in an earlier case where he was accused as a bomb maker. They met when Nobleza was one of those assigned to conduct a tactical interrogation of Dongon.
The 49-year-old officer, whose marriage to a fellow police officer was annulled, was apparently smitten by Dongon, said dela Rosa. “Kinasal daw sila ni Marwan. Nung umakyat siya doon sa bundok kasama si Dongon [She said Marwan wed her and Dongon, when she went up the mountains with Dongon].”
Marwan, on whom the US government had put a $5-million bounty, was the target of the ill-fated mission of the PNP’s Special Action Forces in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015. Marwan was shot dead by a SAF unit, but the exiting SAF teams came under combined fire from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups, and suffered the loss of 44 members of the elite unit.
Caught in Bohol
Nobleza and Dongon were caught in a police dragnet April 22 after their vehicle ignored a checkpoint set up to catch fleeing ASG members who had sailed from Tawi-tawi to Bohol to sow mayhem.
With them was Dongon’s mother and minor sibling. Medicine and a first aid kit were found in their vehicle.
Under tactical interrogation, Nobleza insisted she was working as a deep penetration agent for the government, a task she supposedly began when she was still assigned to the Presidential Anti-organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) during the Aquino administration.
Supposedly, she said, she had gone along with helping rescue Alyas Saad, one of the ASG leaders hiding in Clarin, Bohol, so that the ASG would again trust Dongon, and she in turn can get more information from him.
Dela Rosa, however, remained skeptical. “So far, we consider everything she told us as her own version. We accept it but are still evaluating it, and we will not be fooled by any attempt to fool us because we also know a lot of significant things about her,” dela Rosa told reporters, speaking partly in Filipino.
“I’m not saying she’s totally fooling us. But she withholds information on matters that she thinks might get her in trouble, while sharing on those things that are safe for her to say,” dela Rosa added.
Dela Rosa does not believe Nobleza’s claim of being a deep penetration agent because, he said, there was no “Coplan” [case operation plan] to cover her mission. “She is claiming she’s a DPA? She claimed she was being used before by the PAOCC, but right now they’re no longer using her. If she says she penetrated the group, that’s her own volition. So her motivation there is . . . I don’t know . . . We are questioning her loyalty. Is she with us or no longer with us?”
Nobleza, he added, “is claiming that she is doing this as part of her work, but again it is not being sanctioned by the government. It’s just her. For all we know she is using that as cover to evade liability for what she’s doing.”
The police colonel is deemed a high-risk detainee, and visitors are restricted.
“We’re looking at everything, but the investigation is not yet complete. We have some significant leads,” he said, but then pointed out that Nobleza’s claim she was infiltrating ASG to help government is belied by her utter failure to alert authorities about ASG sub-leader Abu Rami’s move from Sulu to Bohol? “She should have told us about that, but she gave us no information, so it’s still questionable when she says she’s working for the government.”
Other charges eyed
The PNP, meanwhile, is also assessing whether Nobleza might have been involved in abductions by the ASG, including the Samal kidnapping.
Other charges may be filed against Nobleza, given the fact that components for making an improvised explosive device, or IED, along with firearms and ammunition, were found Monday (April 24) morning in a raid on her home in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
“The raid, spearheaded by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) discovered within the residence of Nobleza 66 pieces of non-electric blasting caps together with other components used to assemble an IED. The team also discovered an M-16 automatic rifle and a cal.45 pistol with magazines and ammunitions” Police Supt Lemuel Gonda, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 10 (PRO10) in Cagayan de Oro City, reported.
The search, conducted by virtue of a search warrant issued by Ma. Theresa Aban-Camannong, Executive Judge of Regional Trail Court Branch 9, was carried out at around 9:00 in the evening of April 24, 2017 in Pine Hills Executive Homes, Purok 5, Barangay Casisang in Malaybalay City.
Operatives from Police Regional Office-10, and -7, the Malaybalay City Police Office, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and soldiers from the 403rd Philippine Army Brigade, comprised the raiding team.