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Public Attorney's Office questions suspension of 29 cops in EDSA encounter

MANILA, Philippines - Defense lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office questioned yesterday the suspension of 29 policemen involved in the alleged shootout on EDSA in Quezon City last Feb. 17 that killed three suspected robbers.

Chief Public Attorney Persida Acosta said the 29 policemen should not have been suspended because there was no valid complaint or a formal charge against them.

“There is no case,” she said. “This is a legitimate operation. Dapat walang pinag-uusapan (There shouldn’t even be any discussion).”

Yesterday’s scheduled hearing at the National Police Commission on the shootout was reset to April 14 and 16 after defense lawyers questioned the legality of the procedures.

Acosta said they will ask the Napolcom to void the 90-day suspension imposed on the 29 policemen.

“The Napolcom circular 2007-001 was grossly violated and not complied with,” she said. “There was no valid complaint because there was no specific acts pointed out on the supposed complaint. There was no identification of the alleged persons who allegedly perpetrated the alleged acts that were the bases of the complaint. There was no identification of the respondents and their individual participation.”

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Acosta said the defense finds it questionable that Napolcom suspended the policemen despite the absence of a valid complaint and a formal charge sheet.

“We find it quite questionable that there is a motion for preventive suspension but this did not go through the proper process,” she said.

Acosta said the policemen’s right to due process was also violated when they were identified as respondents in the absence of a valid complaint against them. “We will also question why there were names when there was no valid complaint,” she said.

Napolcom’s Inspection, Monitoring and Investigation Service are investigating the suspended policemen for grave misconduct.

Based on a video footage taken by ABS-CBN, the Napolcom concluded that some of the policemen involved in the shootout were not wearing proper police uniform and did not do enough to persuade the suspects to surrender.

Napolcom said they also used excessive force against the suspects when they shot the suspects in the vehicle and another they pulled out of the vehicle prior to the shooting.

Napolcom said the policemen also failed to secure the site of the shootout, check whether the situation still poses imminent danger, evacuated the wounded to the nearest hospital, and accounted for the killed, wounded, and arrested persons for proper disposition.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who is also Napolcom chairman, said the Philippine National Police can still conduct its own investigation of the shootout.

The Napolcom probe will zero in on the familiarity of the involved policemen with Police Operating Procedure, he added.

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