Calabarzon police unclear on details of raids, says guns and explosives recovered

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Calabarzon police unclear on details of raids, says guns and explosives recovered
Photo shows what police say is a "large cache of long and short assorted firearms including explosives" confiscated during joint operations Sunday that resulted in nine deaths.
Police Regional Office 4A on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — The regional police of Calabarzon is still unsure about the circumstances of Sunday's killings of nine activists, saying only that they were able to confiscate guns and explosives in simultaneous raids.  

Speaking in an interview aired over DZBB Super Radyo, Police Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, a spokesperson for the Calabarzon PNP, was still unable to give a full picture of the operation's circumstances. 

"Actually, we're still collecting data. Right now, we don't have final information as to who they were, if they were affiliated to criminal groups. What's clear now is that the suspects, the operation resulted in the confiscation of loose firearms and explosives from the suspects," she said in Filipino when asked if the suspects were linked to communist rebels. 

"Right now I don't have the final data...when it comes to affiliations and other circumstances of the suspects, we're still waiting for the final report. But this was a legitimate operation," the police spokesperson said a day after the killings took place.

The warrants served in Calbarzon were signed by First Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo dela Rosa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 4 and were for reported illegale guns and grenades.

Gaoiran also could not say what the items confiscated from the crime scene were.

Rights groups have said that complaints of "illegal possession of explosives and firearms" are commonly used against activists and community organizers because it is easier to lock them up that way.

"We don't have the final itemized [list] of the confiscated firearms and how many there were, but these were assorted. There were short and long firearms and also explosives," she also said. 

Regional police chief says operation was against 'communist terrorists'

Gaoiran's sentiments counter those of Police Brig. Gen. Felipe Natividad, regional police chief, who said in a statement that the search warrants were against "alleged members of the Communists Terrorist Groups."

The nine killed were all activists or members of left-leaning groups, which state forces repeatedly accuse of being fronts for communist rebels. 

They are: 

  1. Manny Asuncion of BAYAN-Cavite, killed at the office of the Workers' Assistance Center
  2. Anna Marie "Chai" Lemita-Evangelista 
  3. Ariel Evangelista, of UMALPAS KA
  4. Melvin Dasigao and
  5. Mark Lee Bacasno both members of SIKKAD K3, killed in Kasiglahan Village, Rodriguez, Rizal;
  6. Puroy Dela Cruz at
  7. Randy Dela Cruz, both Indigenous People's, killed next to their houses at Brgy. Sta. Ines, Tanay, Rizal;
  8. Abner Esto and
  9. Edward Esto, both members of SIKKAD K3, killed at Kasiglahan Village, Rodriguez, Rizal.

Natividad's statement mentions none of the deaths, referring only to "armed encounters." 

“This is a legitimate operation, and these individuals were identified according to our intelligence report and were subjected to operational research including their involvements with the rebel groups,” he said.

He added that the nine arrested face charges for violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

"They will be subjected for booking process and medical examination. Meanwhile, their identity is still being withheld pending ongoing investigation," he added. 

'Nanlaban' narrative

Immediately after the killings, Gaoiran told Philstar.com the same narrative when asked about the sudden deaths: that an "armed encounter took place." 

In a statement, Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, the PNP's spokesperson, said that national headquarters would leave it to the Police Regional Office 4A to address criticism over the killings, which police claim were caused by activists shooting at them, forcing them to return fire in self-defense.

The 'nanlaban' (fought back) narrative has become common in the national police under the Duterte administration, with government saying the more than 6,000 acknowledged deaths in anti-drug oeprations happened because those killed violently resisted arrest.

"Unfortunately, even on our end, we don't want situations to end up in armed confrontation and deaths. But unfortunately, during the course of the implementation of the warrant, we had an armed confrontation ended up in the deaths of the nine suspects," she said. 

"Right now, we still have not determined the cause. What got back to us was that there was an exchange of fire between the implementing troops and the suspects." 

with reports from Christian Deiparine 



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