As probe into ‘Massacre’ begins Camp Crame relieves Negros police officials
Raffy T. Cabristante (The Freeman) - April 3, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Philippine National Police Chief Police General Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday ordered the relief of Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NORPPO) acting director Police Colonel Raul Tacaca and three police chiefs over the province-wide operation that killed 14 people and saw the arrest of 15 others.

Aside from Tacaca, the chiefs of police in Canlaon City, Manjuyod, and Santa Catalina towns were sacked: Police Lieutenant Colonel Patricio Digay, Police Lieutenant Kelvin Roy Mamaradlo, and Police Captain Michael Rubia.

The relief of the three police officials was to give way for an impartial investigation on the simultaneous police operations that began last week, Albayalde said.

Tacaca, for his part, told The FREEMAN in a phone interview that he is ready to testify and answer whatever questions that may be asked in the investigation.

“Confident po ako na lalabas ang katotohanan sa imbestigasyon, na ginagawa lang ng mga pulis ang trabaho nila,” the sacked provincial police chief said.

Camp Crame has yet to name Tacaca’s successor as NORPPO chief as of press time.

Fourteen people, mostly farmers, were killed in the simultaneous operation against illegal firearms in Negros Oriental on Saturday, March 30.

Most of the fatalities came from Canlaon City, where eight were killed. Four people were killed in Manjuyod town, while two others were shot dead in Santa Catalina town.

Two of the fatalities were barangay officials in Manjuyod, who were identified as Barangay Candabong chairman Valentin “Eric” Acabal and Barangay Panciao chairman Sonny Palagtiw.

The 12 other fatalities were identified as Ismael Avelino and his brother Edgardo, Melchor Pañares and his son Mario, Rogelio Recomuno and his son Ricky, Gonzalo Rosales, Genes Palmares, Manolo Martin, Steve Arapoc, Franklen Lariosa, and Ano Rapada.

One police officer was also reportedly hurt in the province-wide operation.

Tacaca earlier said the suspects were served search warrants for charges of illegal possession of firearms in their houses on Saturday, but were killed after they allegedly attempted to fight it out—or “nisukol”—with authorities.

The operation, led by both Tacaca and Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 director Police BGen. Debold Sinas, was implemented in a campaign against “criminal gangs” that may cause trouble during the May 13 elections, NORPPO spokesperson Police Chief MSgt. Edilberto Euraoba said.

In a statement, Tacaca said that the operation was also carried out in response to “criminal elements [that] are actively operating in the jurisdiction of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office,” citing harassment incidents involving police officers by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Manjuyod and Guihulngan City.

The simultaneous operations came a day after the NPA celebrated their 50th anniversary on March 29. It was reminiscent of the “Oplan Sauron” the police implemented in Negros Oriental last December, particularly in Guihulngan City, where six suspected rebels were killed and 25 were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

Days before the operation, Tacaca revealed that under instructions from Sinas, Negros Oriental police were placed on “full alert” in time for the NPA’s anniversary.

Benefit of the Doubt

In a visit to the Police Regional Office - 7 in Cebu, Senator and former Philippine Constabulary commander Panfilo Lacson asked the public to give the policemen the benefit of the doubt.

“Let's give our policemen a chance to prove na itong kini-claim nila na legitimate operation, legitimate talaga. Huwag tayo magpadala sa propaganda (Let’s give our policemen a chance to prove that the operation was legitimate. Let’s not be swayed by propaganda),” Lacson told reporters in a press conference.

He said the public should not make judgment unless it is proven that the cops behaved illegally and violated human rights.

“In the meantime, we should all protect them and encourage them and keep their morale high. Let's not make them feel abandoned,” Lacson said. — Clydyl L. Avila JMO (FREEMAN)

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