By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has vowed to provide the best legal defense team to the police forces involved in the operations that resulted into the death of 14 suspected terrorists, and the arrest of 12 others in Negros Oriental.
Although Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director-General Oscar Albayalde has already vouched for the lawfulness of the operations, critics, including farmer’s and human rights groups, have said otherwise, insisting what occurred was actually a series of massacres.
“We stand by our police officers and we will provide them with the best legal defense to help them overcome whatever legal challenges that may arise as a result of several Negros Oriental operations,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
He maintained the operations were completely aboveboard and covered by search warrants issued by the Regional Trial Courts of Negros Oriental.
Año has vouched for the legality of the operations, insisting the police officers acted professionally and in accordance with the law in the conduct of police operations in Negros Oriental.
With no other viable option, Año said the law enforcers “simply returned fire when the subject of the search warrants engaged them in a shoot-out”.
Reports disclosed that 14 suspected Communist rebels were killed in separate operations against loose firearms in Canlaon City and two towns in Negros Oriental over the weekend when they fired upon law enforcers who were serving the warrants.
Recovered from the suspects were rifle-fired grenades, fragmentation grenades, handguns, shotguns, various types of ammunition, and subversive documents.
The DILG chief dispelled allegations that there was a massacre, saying that it was only “part of the typical disinformation and propaganda campaign of the CPP-NPA-NDF and their Communist front organizations to portray government in the worst light even in the face of evidence to the contrary.”
In explaining further, Año said a massacre could not have been possible when 12 other suspects were arrested.
He maintained that it was pretty obvious that the Communist rebels were merely trying to besmirch the image of the Duterte administration, a ploy that make them appear to be on the side of the righteousness to earn public sympathy.
To dispel such suspicions, the DILG chief said the PNP was “ready to face any investigation into the shoot-out including those to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)’’.
Despite banking on the legitimacy of the said police operations, Año still offered his condolences to the families of the 14 alleged communist rebels who were killed during the operations.
He assured the families of the victims that he will be the first one to castigate the police if the probe points that the law enforcers did not follow the rules of engagement.
Año also appealed to the “public not to condemn the police for the killing of the 14 suspects because they only did so to protect and defend themselves’’.
“Hindi po ang pulis ang kontrabida dito. Ginagawa lang nila ang kanilang trabaho para sugpuin ang krimen at panatiliin ang kapayapaan sa ating komunidad. Mas gugustuhin ba natin na sila na nagtatanggol sa atin ang mamatay? (It is not the police who is at fault here. They were merely performing their duties as law enforcers to fight crime and maintain law and order in the community. Do we wish death on the men that are protecting us?),’’ he concluded.