President Aquino orders probe of Escalante slays, crimes
President Benigno Aquino III has ordered a task force formed to investigate cases of extrajudicial killings and other crimes that led to a war between local officials and police of Escalante City, Negros Occidental.
Representatives of three government agencies—Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Commission on Human Rights—would sit in the investigating body.
Representatives from the Negros Occidental government and civic groups would take part in the investigation.
The DOJ and DILG created the task force in a joint department order that was issued on instructions of Mr. Aquino, according to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo in a memo he issued instructing the DILG Central Visayas director, Evelyn Trompeta, to sit in the body.
Police and the local government unit of Escalante are at war over the transfer of the town’s entire police force to the regional police office and its replacement following 19 unsolved cases of extrajudicial killings in the city since May 2007.
The killings were believed related to illegal gambling, drugs, gunrunning and other criminal activities that city officials had been accused of tolerating.
The city government, particularly its council, retaliated by stripping the police of all support, including use of a city-owned building as police headquarters. All financial support was also removed and city officials threatened to sue regional police officials for the transfer of the city police force without consultation with the mayor, Melecio Yap.
Mayor Yap said he welcomed the forming of the task force, saying it could help clear his name against allegations that he was involved in the extrajudicial killings. The mayor’s critics said the killings were perpetrated by communist rebels with whom the mayor has an alliance, which Yap and the rebels denied.
Yap said the city government would file charges against whoever would be found involved in extrajudicial killings and other crimes.
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