BACOLOD CITY—Except for its newly installed acting head, the entire police force of Pulupandan town in Negros Occidental was relieved on Saturday upon orders of Camp Crame to ensure that the lawmen would not be influenced by politicians.
The move came two weeks after three policemen assigned to the station were relieved for allegedly escorting Pulupandan Mayor Magdaleno Peña, who had challenged the chief of staff of Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. to a fistfight at the capitol on March 25.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Marañon said Peña’s challenge to Jose Maria Valencia showed the “temerity and arrogance” of the mayor and his police escorts “to create trouble and instill fear and terror among the populace, simply to advance their election interests.”
“If they can do it to the governor at the provincial capitol, they can likewise do it to anybody,” the letter said.
Senior Inspector Edfel Balibadlan, Police Officer 3 Ronald Palacios and olice Officer 2 Lelanie Lagoting have been placed under technical arrest and disarmed pending investigation. Senior Insp. Anthony Grande replaced Balibadlan as officer in charge of the Pulupandan police.
Camp Crame issued the relief order to the town’s 16 policemen several days after Marañon wrote Roxas and asked for the relief of Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the provincial police, for being “partisan.” Guara denied the charge.
Guara caught the ire of the governor after he announced that the killing of PO1 Bejein Tanguan and police asset Joseph Lutrago in Barangay (village) Poblacion in Escalante City, about 500 meters from the police station, was not politically motivated but insurgency related.
Lutrago was a political campaigner of mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona, who is running against Peña, and the United Negros Alliance, which is headed by Marañon.
Pulupandan and Escalante are among the 13 towns and cities in Negros Occidental which were placed under the watch list of the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to their history of election-related incidents, intense political rivalry and the presence of armed men.
Marañon asked Roxas to direct the Army, in lieu of the PNP, to assist the Comelec in the conduct of the May 13 polls in Pulupandan, Escalante and other hot spots in the province.
The governor, who is running for reelection, also sought the filing of charges against Peña. But the mayor, who is supporting the gubernatorial bid of Vice Gov. Genaro Alvarez Jr., said he had not violated the Election Code or any other provisions of the law through the use of the local police.
Guara said the relief of the Pulupandan police force was also approved by the Comelec. They were replaced by troopers of the Public Safety Company of the police provincial office.