Raps vs Tarlac cops in land row junked
The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the administrative and criminal charges against policemen in Concepcion, Tarlac, for the mass arrest of farmers and their supporters, called collectively as “Tinang 83,” during a ceremonial planting rite last year.
But in a 33-page consolidated resolution approved by Jose Balmeo Jr., deputy ombudsman for the military and other law enforcement offices, prosecutors found the officer in charge of the Concepcion police at that time guilty of an administrative offense or discourtesy in the course of official duty.
The official, Police Lt. Col. Reynold Macabitas, was slapped with a reprimand by the Ombudsman.
Tinang 83 is composed of agrarian reform beneficiaries, activists, students and some journalists who were present during the community cultivation, or “bungkalan,” in June 2022.
They were dispersed and arrested by the police for allegedly destroying a portion of the disputed land at Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion. A local eventually cleared them of illegal assembly and malicious mischief charges.
Later, criminal complaints were filed by some of those arrested against 30 Concepcion policemen, accusing them of unlawful arrests, arbitrary detention, perjury, false testimony, sexual harassment and violation of rights of detained and arrested.
They also filed administrative charges against the Tarlac policemen for grave and serious misconduct for supposedly failing to subject them to medical examinations before they were detained.
They said they were put in a cell that was crowded and cramped.
In junking the criminal charges, the Ombudsman concluded that the policemen had “sufficient basis” to arrest the group, noting that the activity was held on private property and that sugarcane plants were destroyed.
“Given that both parties have their respective versions of what transpired prior to the arrest, supported only by their respective statements, this Office has to rely on logic and the surrounding circumstances to arrive at this conclusion,” the resolution said.
It said that the conduct of negotiations “supports the fact” that there was an effort from the police officers to have a “peaceful resolution of the situation and prevent further chaos.”
“Complainants were asked to discontinue the activity, and while they claimed that they complied, they also admitted that they remained in the area and continued with their program,” the Ombudsman pointed out.
Macabitas, in a text message to the Inquirer on Wednesday, said the Concepcion police respected the decision of the Ombudsman. “This recognizes our actions to be according to the provisions of the Constitution,” he said in Filipino.
He said their actions were found to be “right, fair and without abuse of our authority.”