By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said it welcomes any probe on the police operations in Negros Oriental last week which resulted in the death of 14 individuals, maintaining that it was done in accordance with the law.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo was reacting to allegations of different interest groups including Karapatan and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) that government forces resorted to summary executions.
In a statement late Friday evening, Panelo said that they find it unfortunate that there are groups using the incident in three towns in Negros Oriental to spark hatred toward the police.
“We find it unfortunate that Karapatan and other interest groups are using the incident in Negros Oriental to sow hate and spread fear towards our duly constituted authorities,” he said.
He also said that any probe on the incident is welcome but urged the people to not be swayed by leftist propaganda against the government’s uniformed men.
“We welcome any investigation on the matter. In the meantime, we urge the public not to be swayed by leftist propaganda, especially those stemming from groups linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, designed to stigmatize each and every operation of our law enforcers intended to protect the general welfare and safety of the Filipino people,” Panelo added.
The Palace official denied accusations of a massacre.
“We reiterate that the incident in Negros Oriental arose from a legitimate police operation. Authorities were implementing search warrants that were duly issued by competent courts,” Panelo said.
“In separate police operations, 14 residents died when they fought with the law enforcers who were just implementing the search orders of the said local courts. As the Philippine National Police (PNP) explained, this is not a case of massacre given the fact that those who surrendered without forceful resistance were lawfully apprehended unharmed following the discovery of illegal items pursuant to the court sanctioned search,” he added.
“In fact, a policeman was wounded which goes to show that there were indeed some who used violent resistance when authorities were conducting the search,” he continued.
According to reports, the casualties were killed during the service of 36 search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Twelve were arrested while two managed to escape.
Meanwhile, Panelo also said that there is “absolutely no basis” in fact and in law for PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde to resign over the matter.
“General Albayalde has even acted objectively by relieving administratively ranking officers from their posts just to pave the way for a thorough and impartial investigation free from any possible undue influence and to determine whether lapses were made during the conduct of these operations,” he said.
Earlier, Panelo had brushed off allegations that the government is deliberately targeting farmers who have links with the communist rebels.
“That’s the usual statement issued by those who are linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines,” he said.