Independent probe on NDFP peace consultant's killing? Sure, says Eleazar

Published May 30, 2021, 1:11 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Philippine National Police (PNP) would welcome any investigation concerning the death of a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant during a police raid in Pavia, Iloilo, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said Sunday, May 30.

PNP Chief Eleazar said they are “open to any investigation” into the killing of Reynaldo Bocala, 74, who was shot dead Friday by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) – Western Visayas (Region 6), Regional Intelligence Group (IG-6).

Bocala’s aide, 60-year-old Welly Arguelles Epago, was also killed in the operation, which members of the military backed.

“If they want an independent probe, so be it. Bukas po ang PNP doon. Pero gaya ng sa ibang kaso, papasok ang Internal Affairs Service (IAS) dito para magsagawa ng motu propio investigation upang alamin kung may pagkukulang ang mga operatiba kaya humantong sa pagkamatay ng suspek (The PNP is open to it. But like any other case, the Internal Affairs Service will conduct a motu propio investigation to determine whether or not the operatives committed lapses, which led to the suspect’s death),” Eleazar said.

An independent probe on Bocala and Epago’s deaths was sought by rights group “Karapatan”, which claimed that the peace consultant should be under the protection of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

JASIG guarantees the immunity from arrest of peace consultants involved in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – NDFP (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

While Eleazar recognized that it “is within the rights” of Bocala’s family and colleagues to seek an independent investigation on the incident, he pointed out that the JASIG could no longer be invoked after President Duterte shelved the peace negotiations and terminated the peace negotiations in February 2017.

“Kasama nga dito iyong pagpapalaya sa mga dating nakakulong na NDF negotiators at consultants na ngayon ay nagsipagtago na matapos kanselahin ng Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte ang peace talks pati na ang JASIG (This includes the release from prison of jailed NDF negotiators and consultants who are now in hiding after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte canceled the peace talks and the JASIG),” Eleazar clarified.

The country’s top cop also took exception to allegations that police operatives planted evidence on Bocala. He emphasized that the police conducted the raid to arrest Bocala based on court-issued warrants.

According to a police report, the police and military were serving four warrants of arrest against Bocala at his house in Barangay Balabag when he allegedly resisted the authorities. The warrants were for murder, arson, and robbery, police said.

Police said Bocala fired at the policemen, triggering a shootout that resulted to the killing of the peace consultant and his aide.

“Ang pagtatanim ng ebidensya ay lagi nang paratang sa ating kapulisan kahit gaano pa ka-lehitimo ang mga operasyon (The planting of evidence has always been claimed against our policemen regardless if the operation is legitimate). In this case, our policemen served arrest warrants against Bocala but Bocala and his companion resisted,” Eleazar said.

“Hindi naman pwedeng tumayo lang doon ang mga operatiba at hindi man lang proteksyunan ang kanilang mga sarili kung ganoong, ayon sa inisyal na report, ay naging agresibo ang suspek (Our operatives can’t just stand there and not protect themselves if, according to initial report, the suspect became aggressive),” he added.

With this, Eleazar said he ordered the PNP-IAS to conduct an investigation and hear the plea of the slain consultant’s family.

Bocala is the husband of Maria Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala, the spokesperson of NDFP – Panay. She was included in the controversial list of terrorists released recently by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).