NAGA CITY—The entire police force of Batuan town on Ticao Island in Masbate province, including its chief, were relieved from their posts on Friday after allowing 30 suspected illegal fishers to go scot-free.
Chief Superintendent Clarence Guinto, Bicol police director, said the 21 policemen released the fishermen upon orders of Batuan Mayor Charlie Yuson III. “Political interference and police connivance will not be tolerated in [Bicol],” Guinto said in a phone interview on Sunday.
Batuan, a fifth-class municipality (annual income: P15 million-P25 million), could be reached in one hour by boat from Masbate City, the provincial capital.
Upon the “intervention” of Yuson, Guinto said Inspector Dedimo Ibañez, Batuan police chief, downgraded the charges filed against the fishermen on April 9, four days after they were caught trawling off the municipality with the use of a fine-mesh net.
Yuson, in a phone interview, said he was just implementing a municipal ordinance stating that first-time offenders caught fishing illegally would be fined P6,000 and be set free. He said he was ready to face charges but appealed for a fair investigation.
“This is just being politicized. This practice has been done in other parts of Masbate. In fact, we have the highest number of apprehension of illegal fishers,” Yuson said.
Ibañez is facing an administrative case and Yuson, a case of obstruction of justice.
Guinto said the relief would prove the Philippine National Police did not favor unlawful actions of politicians in Masbate.