Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commanding general of the Philippine Army (PA), heaped praises on the Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel who shot dead a person under police custody (PUPC) that hostaged detained former senator and lawyer Leila de Lima from her cell in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Sunday, Oct. 9.
Brawner made a special mention of Police Corporal Mark Pespes, director of the Headquarters Support Service (PNP-HSS), and Patrolman Lorenze Ian Matias, of the PNP-HSS, when he served as the guest of honor and speaker during an awarding ceremony in Camp Crame on Monday, Oct. 10.
“Just yesterday, it’s all over Facebook and all over social media how our policemen responded to an event that transpired here in the Headquarters of the PNP when former senator, Atty. Leila de Lima was taken hostage by three prisoners who wanted to break away from jail,” Brawner said.
“My special mention to Police Col. Mark Pespes and Pat. Lorenze Ian Matias. Kahapon napanood natin sa social media kung gaano sila nagreact sa insidente (Yesterday we saw on social media how they reacted to the incident) and how bold and brave they were in order to address that situation,” he added.
Pespes and Matias were among the seven cops who were bestowed the Medalya ng Kadakilaan for responding to the attempt of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Idang Susukan, and members Arnel Cabintoy and Feliciano Sulayao Jr. to escape from the PNP Custodial Center.
Sulayao even went to the extremes and briefly held hostage de Lima when the attempted jail break failed, before they were all killed.
Among the first responders were Pespes and Matias, who negotiated with Sulayao when the latter barged in de Lima’s cell and held a knife on her chest while demanding for a helicopter, hammer, and media personnel so he could make good of his escape.
While Pespes was negotiating with Sulayao, the hostage taker asked for water. Pespes then placed a cup of water on a table near an armed Sulayao inside de Lima’s cell, and when the hostage taker reached for it, the cop immediately drew his gun and shot dead the Sayyaf man.
“‘Yun po ang kailangan natin para masugpo natin ang kalaban natin sa bansang ito – tapang ng dibdib – at kitang kita natin ito (That’s what we need to suppress our enemies in our country – bravery – and we all saw that),” Brawner said.
Brawner made his appearance in Camp Crame a week after the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leaderships agreed to augment each other’s forces to enhance the security in Metro Manila and other nearby regions especially during the so-called “ber” months.
“In the past decades, we have been working together long before we fought side by side to liberate Marawi City and now as significant components of the whole of nation approach, we have committed ourselves to combat the very main roots of terrorism and also of criminality,” said Brawner, who is a mistah or classmate of PNP chief Gen. Adolfo Azurin Jr. at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Makatao” Class of 1989.
“We, as members of the uniformed services of the country, cannot operate alone. Hindi po natin kayang sugpuin ang mga problema ng bansa na tayo tayo lamang (We cannot solve all the ills of our country on our own). We have to cooperate with other sectors of society,” he added.
But the Army chief was quick to address worries that the planned joint operations of the military and police might be a prelude to the declaration of martial law, saying the horrors of abusive law enforcers under the military rule of the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. “is long over.”
“Wala na po ‘yung mga araw kung saan nakita natin ang mga abusadong sundalo at mga pulis (Gone are the days when we saw abusive soldiers and cops) especially during martial law. Again, this was proven in Mindanao during the past, recent declaration of martial law. In fact, kung kakausapin natin ang mga taga Mindanao, gustong gusto nila magkaroon ng martial law dahil nakakatulog sila sa gabi (if we talk to Mindanaoans, they really want to have a martial law because they can sleep at night),” Brawner stated.