Albay town top cop relieved as slay of 2 activists probed
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has ordered an inquiry into the killing of two activists in an alleged shootout early on Monday with policemen in Guinobatan, Albay.
Eleazar said on Wednesday that he had directed the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) to look into possible procedural lapses that led to the deaths of Jaymar Palero, 22, and Marlon Napire, 40, who were caught by roving police spray-painting a protest slogan.
Maj. Joel Jarabejo, the chief of the town police, has been relieved of his post and replaced by Capt. Ryan Flores.
“I accept that because the incident happened in my area, although we are also conducting a fair investigation,” said Jarabejo, who had earlier reported that Palero and Napire fired first, prompting the police to shoot back.
But witnesses said the two men were unarmed. Palero’s mother said his body bore signs of torture.
Eleazar said that “to remove speculations and allegations on the death of the two supposed activists,” he had ordered the PNP-IAS “to focus on and fast-track the investigation to shed light on what really happened.”
He said he had also ordered the restrictive custody of the policemen involved.
Eleazar urged the public to let the investigation proceed and desist from making conclusions until after its completion. He guaranteed an impartial and thorough investigation and urged witnesses and other persons with information to come forward.
Palero was a member of the farmers’ group Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay, and Napire, of the rights group Albay People’s Organization.
Maj. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson for the Bicol police, said its Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division had formed a team to investigate their deaths.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Bicol said it was also looking into the supposed rights violations in the deaths of Palero and Napire and in a protest action held by other activists as President Rodrigo Duterte was delivering his last State of the Nation Address (Sona) at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday.
“Our investigators will, as a matter of procedure, conduct a case buildup on the side of the victims and the policemen involved,” CHR Bicol director Arlene Alangco said in a phone interview with the Inquirer in Legazpi City.
On the incident in Guinobatan, she said, the investigators would, among others, examine the police incident report and witnesses’ testimonies, and look into whether the cops involved had followed the rules of engagement.
“If the findings are strong to warrant the filing of criminal complaints against the policemen, the CHR will provide legal assistance to the families.” she said.
Alangco said four members of the activist group Bayan had also filed at the CHR office a harassment complaint against motorcycle-riding policemen in plainclothes who followed and took pictures of a protest march-rally at the Pinaglabanan Monument in Legazpi City’s business district.
She quoted them as saying that other cops in plainclothes were lingering around and taking pictures of people entering and leaving the Bayan-Albay headquarters in the city.
Opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives want an inquiry into the killing of Palero and Napire.
In House Resolution No. 2033, the six members of the Makabayan bloc and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said rights groups had belied the Guinobatan police’s claim that the two men had resisted arrest (“nanlaban”).
They said the police had been using the “nanlaban” narrative to justify the killings under the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs.
In his final SONA, Duterte reiterated his “shoot them dead” remark against alleged communist rebels, which, the lawmakers said, had been denounced by rights groups and even the CHR “for inciting violence against and encouraging the killing of activists and unarmed civilians.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES
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