Crame probe teams check crime scenes; PD, 3 SCs relieved

EXECUTION? OR SHOOTOUT?—SENT BY NATIONAL PNP HEADQUARTERS OF CAMP CRAME in Quezon City were the probe team headed by Brig Gen. OMEGA JIREH FIDEL, head of Directorate for Investigatioin Detective Management Fact Finding team (second from right)  at Camp Fernandez in Agan-an upon their arrival Thursday. This is after meeting with provincial PNP officers which included relieved PD P/Col Raul Tacaca who is now assigned in Cebu  R7. Below are two of the 14 fatalities: from Manjuyod (PNP Photo)

The national headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame Quezon City has sent a seven-man probe team to Negros Oriental to make a first-hand fact finding mission on the killing of 14 farmers in Canlaon, Manjuyod and Sta Catalina last March 30 at past 2.am. in various hinterland barangays thereat.

The team currently scouring the various crime scenes is headed by Police Brig Gen. Omega Jireh Fidel, head of the Directorate for Investigation Detective Management  Fact Finding Team of Camp Crame.  (second from  right)

They met with relieved Provincial Director P/Lt Col Raul Tacaca who flew in from Cebu where he is now assigned at regional headquarters under Brig Gen Debold Sinas.  Tacaca related to the  probe team his first hand account about the incident.

AS this developed, the fact finding team of the national police headquarters who were sent by P/Director General Abayalde, motored to various crime scenes in those three towns, after a meeting with PNP officials at Camp Fernandez in Agan-an.

Gen. Fidel said their mission is to get the facts; whether the police  operation then followed strictly police protocol in serving warrants of arrest.

They were also scheduled to  meet with Gov Degamo to address the latter’s concern  and stiff reaction,  why the police operation did not even had the courtesy of informing the governor about the operation.

The probe team emphasized that the element of surprise was needed in oder to ensure that the suspects did not slip pass the police dragnet. In fact, R7 chief Gen. Debold Sinas said two were able to escape the dragnet.

P5000 FOR EACH

The families of  each of the l4 victims were given a humanitarian assistance of P5000 each family by Gov Degamo from provincial funds.

Gov DEgamo maintained that as governor, he has to know every operation of the police because it involves his constituency.  Police probers said the governor will always know about the operations  at  the proper time.

THE ISSUE IS:

Whether the victims were ordinary suspects of illegal possession of firearms that merited such an operation, or were they members or recruits of the NPA disguised as farmers by day.

On the other hand, the police asked militants like the Karapatan where they got the information that the victims were NPA recruits when it was never mentioned in the warrant.

Police said “it fits every pattern. Each time such farmers are killed in resisting arrest, they are branded as NPA recruits , which info is not official.

But why would simple farmers possess such high powered guns? Militants reply: what guns? These were planted, they claim.

So at the end of the day, accusers from both  sides will end up with different conclusions, it was observed.

BACKGROUNDER

LAST MARCH 30 at past 2.am. the  massive simultaneous police operations in Canlaon city, Manjuod and Sta Catalina where 14 people were killed , were justified by the Philippine National Police as legitimate police operations against loose firearms, not even insurgency.

This was also  disclosed by Region 7 PNP Director Brig Gen Debold Sinas to a media interview.  The police team served search warrants for 36 suspects of illegally possessed firearms.

Gen.  Sinas said, of the 14 victims, eight were killed in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod town and two in Sta. Catalina.   Two of the fatalities were barangay chairmen in Manjuyod.  A police officer, who has yet to be identified, was wounded in one of the operations.

Some 15 other civilians  who were among the 34 served with search warrants,  gave themselves up without resistance and  were peacefully arrested and now detained  according to region PNP Region 7 Director Police Col. Digold Sinas.

Police said they recovered rifle grenades, fragmentation grenades, handguns, shotguns, ammunition, phones and subversive documents from the fatalities.

PNP spokesman Col. Bernard Banac told The reporters in a text message Sunday, that  “The law enforcement operations were legitimate and covered with warrants issued by the court,” in response to allegations by militant groups that the operations were tainted with irregularities.

BAYAN MUNA

Bayan Muna chairman and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares vowed to file charges against the officers involved.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago condemned the killings, saying most of the fatalities were farmers.

Banac said the officers were compelled to fight back after the suspects allegedly resisted arrest. This, the peace officers have to prove in Court Bayan Muna chairman Colminares said.

“We are certain there was resistance because ample force will not be used if there is no threat to the lives of our police officers,” Banac said. But Bayan said there are now witnesses to the contrary.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said they would find out the truth behind the operations, which were carried out under the Synchronized Enhanced Managing Police Operations or Oplan Sauron.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said that claims of resisting arrest to justify killings need to be tried before a court of law. So the CHR is urged urged to file test case so that the methodology of seeking the truth will be beyond reproach.

The Commission on Human Rights of the government said it will hold deepem the scope of the nvestigation”This is to ensure there were no lapses and ascertain if the circumstances really warrant offense from the police, resulting in the curtailment of life,” De Guia said.

The PNP dispelled allegations of abuses, saying standard operating procedures are always observed in police operations Banac       PNP spokesperson said.

“We always perform this function following the standard rules of engagement, utmost respect to human rights and with presumption of regularity,” Banac said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza urged authorities to conduct a speedy and fair investigation of the case.

“The administrator of the Canlaon Parish confirmed  that a lay minister was one of those issued an arrest warrant and killed. Others say they were not  shown the supposed arrest warrants,” Alminaza said.

(Backgrounder Reports – With Gilbert Bayoran, Edu Punay, Rainier Allan Ronda)