The Meiring Mystery: The extradition that never was

The Meiring Mystery:
The extradition that never was

Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews / 1 June 2003

DAVAO CITY — Police Supt. Conrado Laza was designated city police chief on May 16 last year, the day Michael Terence Meiring nearly lost his life in an explosion inside his hotel room.

“My first order of the day is for you to conduct in-depth investigation and coordinate with the judicial authorities regarding the Evergreen Hotel explosion,” then regional police chief, Chief Supt. Eduardo Matillano said during the formal turnover of the city police command to Laza on May 31.

Matillano said Laza’s investigation should include the possible link of Meiring to terrorist groups and to “bring him before the bar of justice.”

Meiring had told police officers while screaming in pain on May 16 that a man had lobbed a grenade inside his room. The evidence pointed to the blast originating from one of his metal boxes.

Matillano called Meiring a liar and said he should answer more questions as to his purpose in staying here in the city for several months a year in the last ten years, aside from claiming to be a mere treasure hunter.

“This Meiring lied because it was found out after the post-blast investigation that the one that exploded in the room was not a grenade but an improvised explosive device,” he said.

“No other action could suffice than to see to it that the Philippine National Police and the city government of Davao will not become a laughing stock of other quarters who intentionally or unintentionally attempt to malign the integrity of the PNP and disturb the tranquility of Davao City,” Matillano said.

In response, Laza said his office was just waiting for the arrest warrants to be issued in connection with the charges of illegal possession of explosives and reckless imprudence resulting to damage of property filed on May 22.

“When we have already the possession of the arrest warrant, we now have the power to coordinate with the Manila police to send Meiring back here to stand litigation of his cases,” Laza said.

Judge Isaac Robillo, who is handling the first case. Robillo also issued a warrant of arrest on June 13 and fixed the bail bond at P80,000. A hold-departure order was also issued.

Meiring was flown back to the United States last year.

The charge of reckless imprudence was reinvestigated and the City Prosecutor of Davao City through Prosecutor I Shahruddin Roberto Sencio Jr., recommended that the case filed be withdrawn and a new information for destructive arson be filed instead, alleging that it was Meiring’s intention to cause the destruction or partial destruction of Evergreen Hotel because there was “no showing that respondent does not possess the necessary intelligence to realize that bringing an improvised bomb inside an inhabited place such as Evergreen Hotel would not result in the destruction thereof.”

In a supplemental affidavit, Chief Inspector Fortunato Reyes Parantar, chief of the Investigation Division, said that when Meiring brought the bomb to the hotel, “it was already assembled and not separated into components safe for storing in a public place.”

“Being assembled and unsafe for storing only means that his intention was to blow up the hotel where he was staying,” Parantar said.

But on December 18 last year, Judge Wenceslao Ibabao said is “contrary to human experience that if accused intended to destroy the hotel, he would not do so with himself inside said hotel. He would see to it that on the day of the explosion, he would not be in his room so that he would not be hurt. His act of putting these two metal boxes beside his bed from the time of his arrival until the day of the explosion, when he knew that it contained explosives, gives doubt as to his intent for bringing said explosive inside the premises of the hotel.”

“This court believes that the earlier case for reckless imprudence resulting to damage to property was the proper case filed by the prosecution,” Ibabao said. He directed the City Prosecutor to “conduct a reinvestigation of this case to determine the proper charge that may be filed against accused Michael Meiring.”

On March 13 this year, Judge Antonio Laolao, Sr. issued an order issued a warrant of arrest for Meiring for reckless imprudence, fixing the bail bond at P60,000.

The penalty for destructive arson is reclusion temporal maximum to reclusion perpetua or 17 years 4 months and 1 day to reclusion perpetua; for reckless imprudence, arresto mayor maximum to prision mayor correccional medium or 4 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months.

Laza told MindaNews last Monday that they did their part, filed the cases against the “matalinghaga” (mysterious) Meiring and coordinated with authorities in Manila for his arrest.

Asked on the exact composition of the explosive Meiring used, Laza refered MindaNews to the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU). Police Sr. Inspector Sabino Vengco III, SATU chief, told MindaNews he could not give a copy of the post-blast report on the Evergreen Hotel explosion last year because he had to confer with the prosecution. He asked MindaNews to call the next day. On Tuesday, he told MindaNews no copy could be given.

The case folder on Meiring’s illegal possession case did not include a detailed post-blast report but a chemical laboratory report from the Regional Crime Laboratory Office indicating that a specimen submitted yielded “positive for nitrates, an explosive ingredient.”

Sarlo Gentapan, Evergreen hotel manager told MindaNews the P2 million damages caused by the blast and Meiring’s P300,000 hotel bills have not been settled. The US Embassy had paid for his hospital bills.

On June 19 last year, the National Bureau of Investigation chief Reynaldo Wycoco, vowed during the weekly Club 888 business forum here that they would bring Meiring back.

Wycoco said he will have to check Meiring’s exact whereabouts with his counterparts from the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation who are in Manila as soon as he returned to Manila that day.

“Whatever is needed to solve the case, we will do that,” Wycoco vowed.

When told by reporters that Judge Robillo had issued a warrant of arrest on June 13, Wycoco said they would get a copy of the warrant from Robillo’s sala and hand it over to their FBI counterpart in Manila.

He said if Meiring was able to leave for the United States, then the warrant was important in starting the process of his extradition since the Philippines and the US have an existing extradition treaty.

That was June 19, 2002.

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