PHILIPPINE National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday said they can justify the killing of 14 suspected New People’s Army rebels in three separate gunbattles with officers in Negros Oriental last Saturday as he expressed the PNP’s preparedness to face any investigation into the mountains.
“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.
Gen. 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 sina–sabi pero hindi porke magsasaka lang, hindi na kasama sa armadong grupo,” he said.
He cited the case of 45 confessed NPA rebels who surrendered to the Police Regional Office 4-A headed by Brigadier General Edward E. Carranza in the provinces of Laguna, Rizal and Quezon over the weekend.
The 45 composed of 26 males and 19 females were mostly described by Carranza as “part-time guerilla fighters and part-time farmers who play the dual role of NPA protectors and political enforcers in their respective barangays.”
Gen. Albayalde said the PNP Internal Affairs Service is already conducting an investigation into the series of encounters in Negros Oriental.
“While we assume regularity in that operation, the PNP-IAS will be there to conduct its own investigation,” he said.
The PNP chief noted that the 12 suspects who were arrested that day will prove that the policemen involved were conducting legitimate operations.
“If they (Negros Oriental policemen) really have a bad intention, dapat patay lahat yung mga nandun. But walang sinasabing farmers ang mga ito, may mga involvement sila sa attacks, ambuscades ng tropa, hindi ito basta-basta, and those raids were covered by operational plans, by search warrants,” he said.
Meanwhile, former PNP chief-turned Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson yesterday rallied behind the PNP and the Armed Forces amid questions on the killing of the 14.
Lacson said instead of condemning the security forces, the public should support the armed services.
“Without prejudice to the findings of a formal investigation that may be contrary to the PNP’s version of the Negros Oriental operations, all peace-loving Filipinos should support our police and AFP personnel for risking their lives to keep our communities safe and secure from bad elements, instead of condemning them only because highly partisan and leftist organized groups are busy with their usual propaganda efforts to harass our troops from sustaining their anti-insurgency and anti-criminality campaign,” Lacson said in a statement.
“When farmers possess rifle grenades, fragmentation grenades, handguns, shotguns, ammunition, phones and subversive documents, it says a lot about their tactics in their insurgency campaign aimed at a protracted guerilla warfare aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authority,” Lacson added.
According to Police Regional Office 7 director Brigadier General Debold M. Sinas, the 14 persons killed were members or supporters of the NPA who were involved in a series of attacks on government troops and facilities in Central Visayas since last year.
The 14 were killed as the PRO7 launched the Oplan: Sauron 2ptO, a massive operation to arrest suspected NPA members operating in the first District of Negros Oriental and a follow-up to the first major counter-insurgency operation in the same province late last December.