Negros gov seeks ouster of cop chief over killings

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BACOLOD CITY—Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. is demanding the relief of the acting police chief of the province following the killing of a policeman and police asset on Monday in Escalante City.

“I am very disgusted” over the killings, the governor said.

He also called on Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to act on the findings of Task Force Escalante, which was mandated by President Aquino in October 2011 to investigate extrajudicial killings in Escalante City on the request of nongovernment organizations, the clergy and the victims’ relatives.

The governor said it had been more than a year since the task force was created but its findings had  yet to be made public or acted upon.

Roxas, in a phone interview, said he would act on the governor’s requests even if he has yet to be officially notified about it.

Marañon said he would immediately make official his requests—implementation of the task force findings and relief of Senior Supt. Celestino Guara as acting provincial police chief.

The governor made the statement following the killing of PO1 Bejein Tanguan and police asset Joseph Lutrago in front of the public market in Barangay Balintawak in Escalante past 6 p.m. on Monday.

Tanguan managed to return fire and hit one of the suspects—Marlon Pinio, 24, of Bohol—whose body was found later in Barangay Jonob-Jonob in Escalante.

Police asset Lutrago is also a supporter of Santiago Barcelona, a candidate for mayor of Escalante under the United Negros Alliance, a party that Marañon heads.

Monday’s killing brought to 25 the number of unsolved extrajudicial killings in Escalante since 2007, Marañon said. Most of the victims are supporters of Barcelona, and responsibility for the killings has been claimed by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Escalante is on the police election watch list under Category 1, which is the classification for areas where private armed groups operate with impunity.

In 2011, Escalante Mayor Melecio Yap Jr. was stripped of his supervisory power over the local police by the National Police Commission amid allegations that he is an NPA supporter. The mayor has denied the allegations.

Yap, who is seeking reelection against Barcelona, said Monday’s killing was insurgency-related, a claim that acting police chief Guara supported.

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