PHILIPPINE National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde yesterday ordered the administrative relief of Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office director Col. Raul Tacaca and three of his chiefs of police who were involved in a series of raids last Saturday which left 14 suspected New People’s Army rebels and sympathizers dead.
Albayalde said the move was to give way to an impartial investigation into the incident.
Apart from Tacaca, also relieved were Canlaon City Police Station commander Lt. Col. Patricio Degay; Manjuyod Municipal Police Station chief Lt. Kevin Roy Mamaradlo and Sta. Catalina Municipal Police Station commander Capt. Michael Rubia.
It was in Canlaon City where eight of the 14 suspects were killed while four were gunned down in Manjuyod municipality. Two others died in Sta. Catalina town after reportedly exchanging fire with police officers.
Albayalde earlier said they could justify the killing of the 14 following three separate gunbattles in Negros Oriental last Saturday as he expressed the PNP’s preparedness to face any investigation regarding the matter.
“We’re ready to face any investigation to show that it was a legitimate operation, that all those operations were covered by search warrants and they took place in three separate areas, not a single area. And that 12 were arrested during those operations, all because they did not put up a fight,” the PNP chief told newsmen at Camp Crame.
Albayalde also refuted claims by militant and human rights groups that the 14 were mere farmers.
“They have previous involvement with the NPA. Magsasaka lang ang sinasabi perod hindi porke magsasaka lang, hindi na kasama sa armadong grupo,” he said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government said it will provide the best legal defense for the Negros Oriental policemen.
“We stand by our police officers and we will provide them with the best legal defense to help them overcome whatever legal challenges that may arise as a result of several Negros Oriental operations,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.
The DILG chief said that the operations were completely aboveboard and covered by search warrants issued by the Regional Trial Courts of Negros Oriental.
“Our law enforcers acted professionally and in accordance with the law during the conduct of police operations in Negros Oriental. They simply returned fire when the subject of the search warrants engaged them in a shoot-out,” Año said.
The DILG chief dispelled allegations that there was a massacre, saying that this was “part of the typical disinformation and propaganda campaign of the CPP-NPA-NDF and their communist front organizations to portray government in the baddest light even in the face of evidence to the contrary.”
“How can they say there was a massacre when some 12 other suspects were arrested during the operations? Halatang-halata na naman na pilit na sinisiraan ng mga makakaliwa ang pamahalaan at pumopostura na naman sila na kakampi ng mamamayan,” he said.
He added that the PNP is ready to face any investigation into the shootout, including those to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights.
Año offered his condolences to the families of the 14 alleged communist rebels who were killed during the operations as he assured them that he will be the first one to castigate the police if it is found out that they did not follow the rules of engagement.
He also appealed to the public not to condemn the police for the killing of the 14 suspects because they only did so to protect and defend themselves.
With Joel dela Torre