By Aaron Recuenco
Is it really for justice, or just for political mileage?
This was the question raised on Wednesday by a top police commander in connection with the death of the driver of election lawyer and senatorial candidate Glenn Chong.
Chief Supt. Edward Caranza, director of the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) regional police, said they are saddened on how the issue appears to be being politicized at the expense of both the policemen who took part in the operation that led to the death of Richard Santillan and the relatives of those who died in the operation in Rizal last week.
“Someone is gaining media mileage. There is no doubt about it,” Caranza told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.
Following the death of Santillan, Chong posted a statement on his Facebook account questioning the operation as he alleged that his driver was deliberately killed by the police.
Chong was also quoted saying that he could be the real target and that the motive his expose against Smartmatic in connection with the alleged election cheating during the 2016 elections, particularly the vice presidential race.
But Caranza denied the allegation, saying that they do no even know who Chong is.
“He has been saying that if he is elected, he would investigate or expose Smartmatic and the election cheating. Ano bang pakialam namin sa Smartmatic na yan? Anong bang pakialam namin sa akusasyon ng dayaan na yan?,” said Caranza of Chong’s claim.
He also lamented the allegations being floated in the social media by Chong’s allies linking Santillan’s death to Vice President Leni Robredo.
Chong has been alleging that the election cheating during the 2016 elections has benefitted Robredo who defeated his client Bongbong Marcos.
“I am from Cavite. I am not from Bicol. Ni hindi nga ako marunong mag-Bicol so bakit nila iko-connect ito dun?,” he stressed.
Caranza said he first knew of the operation when he got back from an official foreign travel with national police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde.
He said that national police spokesman Chief Supt. Benigno Durana called him up and informed him of the social media attacks in connection with the death of Chong’s driver.
“For the record, we did no know Santillan. And we do not even know Chong and his Smartmatic issue,” said Caranza.
“And we sympathize with the family of those who died in that operation. That is also the reason why we also did our part in order to clear things up on this issue,” said Caranza.
He is referring to the relief of the provincial director of Rizal, the chief of police of Cainta and 16 other policemen who took part in the operation.
HOW IT BEGAN
Based on the report of his men, Caranza said there was no mention of Santillan even before the operation was carried out.
He said that it all started with an intelligence report from the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) that a Toyota Fortuner was seen frequenting Cainta.
What took the interest of the HPG on the vehicle was that it was boarded twice by a leader of the crime group ‘Highway Boys’ last week of November and early part of December.
The Highway Boys are on the intelligence report of the police stating that it is responsible for carnapping, gunrunning and distribution of illegal drugs.
This is the reason, according to Caranza, why the HPG and backup forces from Rizal police have been tailing the Fortuner who turned out to be last registered to a member of the Chong family before the shootout erupted.
Another reason why the cops took interest on the Fortuner was that it was last registered in 2015 based on the verification.
The cops then inteecepted the vehicle in a checkpoint in Barangay San Andres in Cainta town.
“But the vehicle did not stop and shots were fired from inside the vehicle. This triggered the shootout,” said Caranza.
The official said that if only the vehicle stopped during the checkpoint, the shootout would have never happened.
An autopsy report from the Public Attorney’s Office stated that Santillan was tortured before he was shot.
But Caranza belied the PAO autopsy report, saying an autopsy report from the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory states otherwise.
“It was the PNP which conducted the first autopsy and there was no indication of torture based on thr report,” said Caranza.
“The PAO autopsy was done after the PNP Crime Laboratory. The cadaver was already embalmed when the PAO conducted the autopsy,” he added.
Caranza then appealed from Chong ajd his allies to respect the PNP procedures and the ongoing investigation.
This as he revealed that Chong called him up and demanded documents from him regarding the operation.
“I told him that we have proper procedures in the PNP. Hindi kami bara-bara dito at basta na lang nagre-release ng mga documents,” said Caranza.
He explained that the fact he elieved his men and placed them under restritive custody is but a proof that they also want to know the truth.
“Let us not make conjectures or any unfounded conclusions here. Kaya nga may investigation di ba?” said Caranza.
“And I assure the public that if any mistake or wrongdoing was found to have committed by my men, then they will answer it,” Caranza stressed. (Aaron Recuenco)