PNPA grads split on march
A graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) on Friday called on his fellow academy graduates and police officials not to join Sunday’s march for justice for the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in a clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.
Senior Supt. Jerome Baxinela, PNPA Alumni Association chapter president in Camp Crame, sent out text messages in which he addressed his fellow PNPA graduates as lakan (nobleman) and lakambini (noblewoman).
“Having weighed the pros and cons of the sympathy run on Sunday, realizing its effects, and putting premium to the interest of the PNP, I, as Crame chapter president, urge all chapter members to desist from joining the said march,” Baxinela said in his text message.
Earlier, PNPAAAI board chair Tomas Rentoy III said PNPA graduates would lead the “March for Justice for SAF 44” from Dasmariñas City in Cavite province to Quezon City in Metro Manila.
The march ends the official mourning period for the 44 SAF commandos who were killed in a daylong gun battle with Moro rebels after taking down international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano.
The march will have two phases, including a 44-kilometer walk from Salitran, Dasmariñas City, to Camp Crame, Quezon City. The second phase will be a walk from Camp Crame to Claret School in Teachers’ Village, where an ecumenical Mass will be held.
The Mass was originally planned to be held at Quezon Memorial Circle, but the permit was withdrawn by the city government on Wednesday night, according to Catholic priest Robert Reyes, a coorganizer of the march.
Rentoy said PNPA graduates, with the families of the 44 SAF commandos, would take part in the march from Cavite to Quezon City, which is also open to the public.
The march, with the theme “Walk with the Widows, Run for Our Heroes,” will be replicated in other parts of the country.
Baxinela is a member of the PNPA Class of 1986 and is reportedly one of the organizers of the march, which is meant to emphasize the policemen’s plea for truth and justice in the killing of the 44 SAF commandos.
Sources, however, said that police officials talked Baxinela into dissuading chapter members from joining the march.
“The intent of the PNPAAAI National is noble but the present situation does not warrant participation thereof. Let us uphold public interest over and above all other interests,” Baxinela said in his text message.
A PNPA graduate who spoke on condition of anonymity said politics was behind the decision to withdraw police support for the march.
“If this is our fight and not of the politicians’, we would definitely join. The police should remain nonpartisan. This is not the way to seek justice (for the fallen SAF troopers),” the source said.
Asked who the politicians were, the source replied, “The Cojuangcos and those anti-P-Noy.”
P-Noy is President Aquino’s nickname. The Cojuangcos refer to the President’s uncle Peping Cojuangco and his wife Margarita, both of whom have been calling on Mr. Aquino to step down.
Malacañang on Friday again expressed its condolences and sympathy to the families of the 44 SAF commandos, but warned against those who would use the march to serve their own interests.
“We continue to pursue the path of peace to ensure that the efforts of the 44 were not in vain,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
“While rallies and demonstrations are part of the democratic space we share, let us be wary of those who are using this as leverage for their own motives,” she said.
Father Reyes said the march was neither against nor for President Aquino.
“Other parties spoiled it. Many would have joined, but the leftists, other political colors stepped in,” Reyes said in Filipino.
Reyes said he and Rentoy were the ones organizing the march, which he insisted was not a political rally.
He said the march was intended to “boost the morale of the PNP,” which was shaken by the Mamasapano tragedy.
“I would not be out there calling for the ouster of P-Noy,” Reyes said.
He added that apparently, “there’s someone mishandling this and the truth should not be watered down.”
Reyes said he believed the permit for the Mass at the Quezon City Memorial Circle was withdrawn because Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista did not want to be associated with the march.
“I also heard there were 2,000 [police cadets] who wanted to join, but they were not allowed [by the PNPA],” he said.
But Chief Supt. Armando Ramolete, the PNPA director, denied Reyes’ claim.
“We have only 850 cadets— that’s from first year to fourth year,” Ramolete said in a telephone interview.
He said the march was organized by the alumni association, not by the PNPA.
“It’s not that [the cadets] were not allowed to join, but that they are too busy already preparing for our activities,” he said.
The PNPA will hold its annual alumni homecoming on March 14 and graduation on March 21.
PNPA graduates, as well as participants from the uniformed services, are expected to assemble at the Camp Crame Grandstand while the families of the 44 slain SAF commandos will lead the march from Camp Crame to Claret School.
The assembly point for the first phase will be at Central Mall Dasmariñas along Emilio Aguinaldo Highway in Salitran. The runners from Cavite will be joined by other runners at 10-km intervals along the route.
Earlier, the PNP reminded policemen that they may join the march if they could get permission from their commanders.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., spokesperson for the PNP, said the PNP respected and supported calls for truth and justice in the deaths of the 44 SAF commandos, but pointed out that policemen, particularly those on duty, had responsibilities to fulfill. With reports from Nikko Dizon in Manila and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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