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NGO condemns warrantless police search in its De Oro office

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The Philippine National Police (PNP) in this city has drawn flak for barging last Wednesday into the premises of nongovernment organization Balay Mindanaw without a warrant.

Charlito Manlupig, founder and president of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) said two police officers, bringing with them a K9 dog, searched the bags of young volunteers from Marawi City who were about to complete a two-day training on dealing with trauma.

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The bags were placed at the lobby of BMFI’s peace center, where training sessions are done, after they have checked out of their rooms.

Manlupig said the policemen, who were all members of the Cagayan de Oro Special Weapons Action Team (SWAT), did not introduce themselves or presented a search warrant to BMFI staff.

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“The K9 handler focused on inspecting the bags. They hurriedly left, again without saying a word,” Manlupig said.

“The police officers conducted the search without saying any word. It traumatized all of our staff and the volunteers,” Manlupig added.

Major Aldren Baculio, chief of the Bulua police station, said he personally went to BMFI to apologize for the incident and explained that it was the result of a lapse in communication.

Cagayan de Oro police spokesperson Maj. Ivan Viñas also apologized for the incident saying it was supposedly a routine procedure but “it created a misunderstanding.”

Viñas vowed to have the incident investigated and penalize officers or men responsible for it.

Vinas said the PNP regional office ordered the SWAT team in Cagayan de Oro to conduct a search after the Australian Embassy in Manila informed them that an Australian official would visit the NGO office and may need security.

Manlupig, however, said the Australian Embassy did not inform the NGO of any visiting official nor did Balay Mindanaw have an event scheduled with any Australian official.

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“From whom or where did the PNP get the information that we were expecting Australian dignitaries?” said Manlupig. “We were expecting no one. Nobody, not even the Australian Embassy, informed us. We had hosted many dignitaries in the past, and we are familiar with security protocol,” Manlupig added.

Manlupig condemned the search and said the NGO would sue the police officers.

“We now have a taste of martial law,” Manlupig said. “Is Balay Mindanaw now considered a security threat? An enemy? Is there a deeper reason for the illegal search and trespassing?” Manlupig added.

“While participants were sharing about healing and forgiveness, here are individuals from the Cagayan de Oro City SWAT creating new wounds,” Manlupig said.

BMFI staffers told the Inquirer that a day earlier, two police officers stayed outside the building and took photos.

The search at Balay Mindanaw came after the Philippine Army labeled Oxfam, a global nongovernment organization, as “a front organization” of the New People’s Army and other communist organizations.

Based here, BMFI has worked with the Armed Forces in security sector reform initiatives, and has trained military and police officials in conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding.

Apart from a solid track record in community development, BMFI is also working on disaster risk reduction and management.

Edited by TSB

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TAGS: K9, NGO, ‎Police, Search, Security, threat, warrantless
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