MANILA, Philippines?The Philippine National Police renewed a call for strict compliance by its men and women with the rules of engagement in operations after internal affairs inspectors found that some officers involved in the December 5 Parañaque shootout had committed some lapses particularly in safeguarding innocent lives.
Director Leopoldo Bataoil, the Metro Manila police chief, specified four points that anti-crime units must faithfully follow to prevent harm or death of innocent people during operations, or ?collateral damage? that the PNP failed to avoid in the 40-minute gunfight with robbery suspects last month.
?The recommendations will be taken in our police information and education program. It's actually there in our police operational procedure, but just the same we need to improve on those concerns,? Bataoil said at a news briefing.
The PNP Internal Affairs Service has recommended that nine members of the Highway Patrol Group be charged for administrative liabilities, among them grave misconduct and neglect of duty, for failing to protect innocent civilians during the operation.
The IAS also cited the officers for ?possible violation of human rights? in the shootout, specifically in the deaths of Alfonso de Vera and his daughter Lia Allana. De Vera and his eight-year-old daughter were among 16 killed in the street battle with alleged members of the so-called Waray-Waray robbery group.
On top of the crucial rules of engagement the PNP wished to remind its officers about was the need to designate an ?overall commander and assistant overall commander? in any operation.
The PNP had earlier admitted that operatives in the December 5 encounter might have lost direction when their ground commander, Senior Superintendent Eleuterio Gutierrez Jr., was shot and disabled from leading the men.
Bataoil also said officers assigned as ?blocking forces? -- operatives that should guard the operation perimeter to keep away civilians -- must be in uniform. Some officers in the operation were in plain clothes while exchanging fire with heavily armed suspects.
?Countersigns should be utilized by participating elements, including their vehicles,? added Bataoil.
This combat tactic, usually done through tying bright-colored ribbons on an officer's arm, head or firearm, is aimed at identifying friendly forces from other combatants.
Only Navy intelligence officers used countersigns during the operation, and police officers even called this ?corny? in an earlier interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Bataoil also called for strengthening the PNP's crime scene investigation and said the operation area must be preserved for complete collection of evidence.
As the PNP initiated this fine-tuning, members of the HPG again figured in a gunfight with still unidentified men in Quezon City.
Four of the men were killed in a shootout around 2:45 a.m. Wednesday after they allegedly sped past a checkpoint at the corner of Roosevelt and Quezon Avenues in Quezon City.
Police said the suspects, who aboard a green Toyota Revo (ZFW-363), first engaged HPG and Quezon City anti-carjacking operatives in a chase before firing at pursuing officers. A five-minute firefight ensued, ending in the death of three unidentified suspects.
A fourth suspect who was wounded during the brief exchange was rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center but died upon arrival.
Police are still identifying the suspects as of press time and are yet to determine why the group tried to evade the routine checkpoint.
Bataoil, meanwhile, said police continued to pursue remnants of notorious robbery gangs several PNP units encountered recently, among them the Waray-Waray, Ozamiz and Ilonggo robbery gangs.
?We believe that at the moment, they are still on the run but we will try our very best to keep them on the run so that they will not be able to regroup. And if we have the opportunity to arrest them, we will do so. But if they are going fight our troops, we will give them what they are looking for,? Bataoil said.