With a series of alleged wrongdoings being leveled at policemen, the country’s top cop on Friday lamented that criminals now appear to be the heroes.
Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), noted that stories are going around about the involvement of policemen in crimes.
“We have to verify these reports. With so many stories coming out, even members of the media are unwittingly being used because they are fed false information. A criminal is becoming the hero. It’s now the reverse,” Purisima said at a press conference.
Among the more recent allegations were that Cavite policemen and national penitentiary prison guards had accepted payoffs from escaped Ozamiz gang leader Ricky Cadavero, that Cadavero and his right-hand man Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr. were summarily executed by policemen on Monday night, that a witness to the killings of Cadavero and Panogalinga had gone missing, and that policemen who recaptured drug lord Li Lan Yan alias Jackson Dy and his wife, Wang Li Na, had helped themselves to the cash and illegal drugs found in the couple’s safe house in San Juan City.
Most embarrassing to the PNP so far this year was the incident in January in which policemen from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), with backing from military troops, killed an illegal gambling lord and 12 other men in an alleged shootout in Atimonan town, Quezon province. An investigation by the PNP itself found that incident was a “rubout,” which was confirmed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after its own investigation.
Twenty-five policemen and soldiers, including the ground commander of the Atimonan operation, Supt. Hansel Marantan, are facing criminal charges for the killings.
On Friday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said there were “indications” that the shooting of Cadavero and Panogalinga in San Pedro town, Laguna province, on Monday night was a rubout.
“There are indications of that (rubout), but I am not prepared to say it categorically,” De Lima told reporters.
Witness not missing
De Lima denied reports that the witness to the incident and his family are missing.
“They are not missing. [The NBI is] just having a hard time accessing them because the witness’ parents are hesitant and I think that is a natural feeling,” De Lima said.
“[NBI agents] know where they are. They’re monitoring them,” she said.
A senior NBI agent told the INQUIRER on Thursday night that officers from Quezon City Police Talipapa Station 3 took the witness and his family from an NBI team in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo compound on Commonwealth Avenue on Wednesday and took them to the house of the witness’ brother in Caloocan City.
The agent said the family left there at 5 the following morning and disappeared.
“We are now looking for them,” the agent said.
De Lima explained on Friday that the witness and his family are moving from place to place for security, but NBI agents know where they are.
Two days before President Benigno Aquino III was to address a joint session of Congress, Purisima said that the PNP follows the straight-path policy of the Aquino administration.
Those who do not follow and commit wrongdoings are sanctioned, Purisima said.
“We don’t let them get away with it even if they are ranking officials of the PNP,” he said.
Purisima said the PNP would conduct thorough and “scientific” investigations to uncover the truth about the allegations being hurled at policemen.
“What is important is if there are incidents like this, we seriously investigate it. We try to find out the truth. If they are found to be liable, they are given the corresponding punishment. Cases will be filed against them,” he said.
Out to discredit cops
Warning that drug lords always want to discredit the police, Purisima said that he has ordered an investigation into the allegation made in a television news report by a man who claimed to be part of the police raiding team in the Li case.
‘Very good cops’
“We should look into the allegations because it destroys the image of those who are directly involved. And the people who arrested (Li) are very good operatives. So if they are discredited, then what will we say? No one will work anymore. That’s the problem if they are discredited. We won’t allow it that they would be discredited just like that. We have to know who among them made a mistake. Let the ax fall on them,” Purisima said.
De Lima said the NBI was expanding its investigation of the killings of Cadavero and Panogalinga to see if these were related to the Li case.
Li and his wife were arrested on the same day that Cadavero was recaptured by Cavite policemen and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) agents in Dasmariñas City.
“We have reasons to believe, based on [information from] credible sources, that [the two incidents] are related,” De Lima said, adding that she went to the house where the Lis were captured and she interviewed two witnesses.
De Lima said the two witnesses claimed that CIDG agents arrived at the house and “cleaned up the place” three hours before journalists got there.
“The (CIDG agents) took alleged drug paraphernalia and cash. These were placed in a sack-like bag. [One of the witnesses] did not see [all] the money, only some of it [showing] through the damaged zipper. These were then loaded on another vehicle,” De Lima said.
2 witnesses credible
She said her office had obtained the plate numbers of the vehicles involved.
“I think they (witnesses) are credible. They wouldn’t invent [what they said they had seen]. In fact, I had a hard time convincing those two witnesses to apply for the Witness Protection Program. We already have them,” De Lima said.
At press time, 19 members of the CIDG raiding team have been relieved by their boss, Chief Supt. Frank Uyami, pending investigation.
Four of them were commissioned officers, identified as team leader Senior Supt. Jose Mariano Espino, Supt. Romeo Albert Baleros, Senior Insp. Julius Garcia and Senior Insp. Elmer Ducabo.
The rest are noncommissioned officers.
Questions on performance
Uyami himself went to Li’s house two hours after the raid.
Uyami told reporters in a separate interview on Friday that he had asked the raiding team whether illegal drugs were found in the house. He said he was told none was found.
“I only saw personal items, clothes, a bed, TV, the refrigerator in the kitchen. It was the barest minimum in a house,” Uyami said.
“If there are questions in our operations, in our performance, we are open to an investigation so it will be fair and we won’t be accused of hiding anything,” he added.
Drug lords’ strategy
Purisima said that discrediting policemen who have been performing well, especially in the fight against illegal drugs, has been the strategy of drug lords.
“They have all the money and power to do that. They have a lot of influence,” Purisima said.
Purisima also said he had called up certain agencies, which he did not identify, to help the PNP in the investigation of the allegation against the CIDG personnel.
“We have deployed other operatives to look into this. I have contacted different agencies to look into this incident. We will have a report in due time. If there is an incident like this, it is impossible that other operatives do not know about it. As they say, if the fart stinks, everyone can smell it,” Purisima said in Filipino.
Purisima said he had been apprised of the initial results of the PNP investigation into allegations that Cadavero and Panogalinga were intentionally killed by their escorts from the Calabarzon police.
Purisima said the relieved Calabarzon police director, Chief Supt. Benito Estipona, was to submit his explanation to him by noon Friday.
Purisima said the investigative team had made a number of observations from the reenactment of the supposed shoot out that led to the killing of the gang leaders but the investigation had yet to be completed.
The PNP chief declined to disclose the initial findings so as not to stir “speculations” from the public.
Apparently, the report is far from complete because as Purisima said the investigation has only answered so far the “what and when” of the incident.
“The ‘how’ has, of course, many versions as well as the ‘why.’ There is no analysis yet of what happened,” Purisima said.
Purisima also said that the PNP would look into members of the Calabarzon police to try to learn why officers from the command have been involved in bloody incidents since the start of the year.
“We are looking into individual police personnel, but the whole of the Calabarzon police, we don’t think (there is a breach of discipline). What is specific is, there are incidents that took place one after the other,” Purisima said.
“The investigation is not yet complete,” he said. “In an incident where there are fatalities, we look at the reasons behind it. Is it the culture (among the policemen)? We have to remove that culture. We have to do something about it.”
First posted 12:57 am | Saturday, July 20th, 2013