CALAMBA CITY, Laguna—A new officer took over the helm at the Calabarzon regional command of the Philippine National Police on Thursday amid questions regarding the killing of two convicted criminal gang leaders in police custody earlier this week.
Chief Superintendent Jesus Gatchalian was appointed officer-in-charge of the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) regional police after Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II ordered the relief of Chief Supt. Benito Estipona over the killing of Ozamis robbery gang leaders Ricky Cadavero and Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr. in San Pedro, Laguna.
Cadavero and Panogalinga, who bolted prison late last year, were recaptured in Dasmariñas City, Cavite but were shot dead by members of the Calabarzon Special Operations Group on Monday night, July 15, during what they claimed was an ambush supposedly carried out by the convicts’ gangmates in an attempt to free them.
The policemen claimed the prisoners grabbed the firearms of their security escorts when unidentified men on motorcycles fired shots at the police convoy.
Supt. Erwin Obal, the regional police information officer, said Gatchalian arrived early Thursday at Camp Vicente Lim, here, but skipped a formal turnover.
Gatchalian immediately held a briefing with the regional police command and left about an hour later for Camp Crame, the national police headquarters in Quezon City.
Estipona did not join the briefing. He has also refused to take calls on his mobile phone since the relief order was announced by Roxas on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the police fact-finding team restaged on Thursday morning the alleged ambush that led to the death of Cadavero and Panogalinga.
Chief Supt. Catalino Cuy, who was tasked to lead the investigating team, led the reenactment at the alleged ambush site around 9:30 a.m. in Barangay (village) San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna, according to Chief Supt. Henry Rañola of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
A team from the National Bureau of Investigation was also present “to observe the reenactment,” Rañola said in a phone interview.
Rañola however refused to comment on the reenactment, which lasted for about an hour.
The results will “be part of our written report,” he said.