Inconsistencies hound police narrative of alleged police shootout in Senate hearing
Inconsistencies in the statements of police officials over serving a search warrant against a town mayor from Leyte and an inmate who died in an alleged shootout with policemen in a jail last Saturday prompted some senators in a hearing Thursday to say the incident was “premeditated.”
An exasperated Senator Panfilo Lacson Jr concluded police were out to kill Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. from the beginning. The other fatality at the Baybay City sub-provincial jail was Raul Yap.
"There’s one word to describe this, premeditated,” said Lacson, chairman of the committee on public welfare and safety.
Senator Richard Gordon, vice chairman of the committee, and Senator Franklin Drilon agreed with Lacson.
“Correct. That’s why I’m asking him. It appears what you have done was premeditated," Gordon told Superintendent Santi Noel Matira, a member of the team that entered Espinosa’s jail cell.
"The whole operation was premeditated," Drilon said.
"There are a lot of inconsistencies with testimonies of the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group). It seems that they had planned for this encounter way in advance to go through the trouble of applying for a warrant when in fact the mayor was already locked up in a government facility," said Senator Grace Poe.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) relieved 24 personnel involved in serving the search warrant.
PNP Director General Ronald Dela Rosa ordered Director Fernando Mendez Jr. of the Personnel and Record Management to immediately relieve the cops after he was appraised of the initial results of the investigation. They were reassigned to the Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit in Camp Crame.
A confusion in the timeline was spotted by Lacson, the former head of the Philippine National Police, as he grilled police officials on the events of the death of Espinosa and Yap.
In their presentation of the sequence of events, relieved regional CIDG chief Superintendent Marvin Marcos said his men entered the jail at 4:30 am Saturday. He claimed his people used a bolt cutter to open the gate's lock as the guards were uncooperative.
The alleged exchange of gunfire the police team had with Espinosa and Yap happened only after 4:30 am. But Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar, Eastern Visayas regional
police chief, told the committee Matira, requested for Scene of the Crime
Operatives (SOCO) at 3:49 am.
This was relayed by Matira through phone to an on-duty officer at the regional tactical operations center, Police Officer Jennifer Monghe.
Matira confirmed he made a request and received a reply 3:59 am. This, after the second in command of the raiding team, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, said an encounter has ensued within the jail.
Later, the committee found out Matira also called the regional crime laboratory also for a SOCO team.
Lacson said it is unusual the police would call in the SOCO 40 minutes earlier before the operation.
"Something doesn't add up. You have not entered yet but you already requested the SOCO. Are you anticipating that you will kill someone?," said Lacson.
Marcos, supervising officer of the operation, later changed his tune, reasoning they “just estimate(d) the time.”.
Director Benjamin Magalong, PNP deputy chief of operations, said Marcos, Lagara and other officials should have informed their superior officers before the operation.
"Considering this was a high profile target and high profile operation, the commanders should have coordinated," Magalong said in response to the query of Senator Ralph Recto.
The officers should have informed Chief Superintendent Beltejar, who as regional director, has operational control of all police units in his area, and CIDG director Chief Superintendent Roel Obusan.
Beltejar said he never received information from the officers while Obusan admitted he got a text message from Marcos at 2:53 am but he was asleep.
They also did not coordinate with the provincial warden, Homobono Bardillo
"They coordinated by using a bolt cutter. They coordinated by disarming the guards," Lacson exclaimed.
Marcos cited an entry at their operational procedures where they must submit a written incident report after the operation. Magalong did not agree. "They should have coordinated. The role and objective should be clear." Emmanuel Tupas/DMS