By Analou De Vera and Aaron Recuenco
The Manila Police District (MPD) maintained their stand that the police operation last October 11 in Tondo, Manila, where three alleged drugs suspects were killed, was legitimate.
P/Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel, in an interview over radio DZMM, said that the video released by Reuters was “inconclusive at the very least” since the footage was taken more than 50 meters away from the area of encounter.
Coronel said the story released by Reuters last November 27 was “incomplete.”
The story did not indicate if the suspects were really summary killed, he said.
“Nakita naman po na nagtatakbuhan yung mga tao kasi nagkaroon po ng parang habulan nung panahon na yun dahil nagka alarma na yung mga pulis sa area at yung mga suspects ay nagtangkang lumaban at nagpaputok sa pulis ay doon po nagkaroon ng encounter (We can see people running because there was a chase at that time between the presence of the police raised an alarm and the suspects tried to shoot back at them. That’s when the encounter happened),” he explained.
A police report from the MPD-Crimes Against Investigation Section (CAPIS) showed that the suspects, Rolando Campo, 60, Sherwin Bitas, 34, and a certain “Kalbo,” reportedly initiated a shootout with the lawmen of Moriones-Tondo Police Station around 12:50 p.m. of October 11, in an alley on Sta. Barbarra and Kagitingan streets.
Coronel said the area is notorious for illegal drugs activities and that the operation was considered “high risk” since they received reports that the suspects were armed and have previous criminal records.
The reports of drug trafficking are based on accounts of the residents in nearby areas including barangay officials, he said.
Elizabeth, the 60-year-old wife of Campo, disputed the narration of the police, during an interview with Manila Bulletin last October 12. Elizabeth said that her husband was a former drug user who stopped four to five years ago. She also denied that her husband owned a gun. The incident was also witnessed by her 10-year-old granddaughter, she said.
Coronel said that they are already conducting an investigation on the incident and that the lawmen involved in the operation were tasked to report at the Philippine National Police – Internal Affairs Service.
Meanwhile, PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa defended the Manila policemen as he questioned the timing of the release of the Reuters special report that included the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage.
“It was recorded October 11 but why did they not show it on the 12th, 13th, 14th or 15th? Why was it shown when it is almost December when there was an oral argument at the Supreme Court and there is a rumor that the PNP will go back to the war on drugs?”
Dela Rosa was referring to the Supreme Court oral arguments on the petition questioning the legality of a memorandum circular governing the war on drugs.
“The video was also well-edited as well as the timing of how the suspect fell down,” said dela Rosa. The CCTV footage showed one of the three drug suspects falling down after a cop fired his gun.
But Dela Rosa said the footage did not capture everything, including the possibility that the suspect could be fighting back.
“There was really malice. There was an intention to make it appear that policemen are bad,” he said.
Nevertheless, dela Rosa said he would leave everything to the investigating team that is now looking into the incident.
He added that he did not order the relief of the policemen involved in the operation since he does not see anything wrong about it. However, Dela Rosa said that he would submit to any recommendation that would be made by the investigating team.
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