The police escorts had no choice but kill Ricky Cadavero and his accomplice, Wilfredo Panoligan Jr., when the two convicted robbers tried to wrest the guns from them, while they were being brought from Dasmarinas, Cavite, to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna.
DILG Secretary Mar Roxas II, however, is suspicious. He suggests as much that Cadavero, who headed the Ozamis robbery and holdup group, was killed to silence him.
The rumor is that he enjoyed the protection of certain politicians and high-ranking police officers in the region.
A few hours before the incident, he and PNP Chief Alan Purisima had presented Cadavero and Panoligan to the media, with the message that criminals would sooner or later fall.
Mr. Roxas must be fuming mad, if he is not in on the scheme.
The order was to bring the two back to the Bureau of Corrections in Muntinglupa, Rizal. But Superintendent Danilo Mendoza, head of the Regional Special Operations Group of Southern Tagalog, and 14 other policemen had other plans in mind. He brought the two gangsters all the way to Dasmarinas, Cavite, instead “for inquest.”
Mr. Roxas, who exercises operational control over the police, has also relieved, along with Mendoza and his group, Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona, regional commander of Southern Tagalog Police Office.
Ordinarily the move is enough reassurance to the public that a thorough investigation would be conducted and the culprits brought to justice.
Not to people who have grown cynical. They don’t expect to hear anything coming out of the incident but the police version of it, and nobody can blame them.
The current administration has yet to prove itself different from its three predecessors.
No high-profile cases of police acting as prosecutor, judge, and executioner have ever been resolved under Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The cases were swept under the rug, and the police involved in them were made to cool off for a time, then quietly reassigned elsewhere, and from there they went on to occupy even more powerful positions.
DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima “smells something fishy” in the Ozamis gang killing. She also expresses relief she was not in the press conference. Otherwise, “I would have appeared foolish as well.”
The killing came on the heels of the Atimonan (Quezon) massacre, which prompted Ms. de Lima to make the same observation.
In that incident, Superintendent Hansel Marantan and a combined unit of policemen and soldiers waylaid a convoy of vehicles and killed more than a dozen people in the cars, including another police officer, who was said to be escorting the supposed object of the operation, Vic Siman, allegedly a drug lord operating in the region.
It was a fight for turf. The target was a gambling lord. Mr. Marantan, the principal accused, is said to be acting on orders of another gambling lord. And it didn’t matter if another police officer was to be killed in the process.
The motives may vary from one case to the next, but the method is the same.
“It was a rubout,” says de Lima, not self-defense as Mendoza claims or a shootout as Marantan maintains.
The appointment of former Senator Panfilo Lacson as anti-crime czar in the Aquino administration is said to be imminent. So we wonder what has he to say about the explanation advanced by Mendoza and company.
Mr. Lacson defended Marantan and practically exonerated him.
That’s to be expected. In his own defense, Mr. Lacson said, when he was accused of ordering the rubout of 18 members of the Kuratong-Baleleng robbery gang, not to blame the police for having a highly developed instinct of self-preservation.
We’ll go along with that. The police face danger everyday, and so they must be fast on the draw. That is what their training is all about, after all. However, there is no way to justify the killings in the three incidents and in hundreds of other cases in the past, in which the victims were already in police custody, unarmed and in fact in handcuffs.
Mr. Lacson, it may be recalled, was implicated in the double murder of Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, in November 2000.
According to his top aides in the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, Mr. Lacson had ordered the kidnapping and killing of the two men, who if we may add the observation were also unarmed and defenseless.
The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court dismissed the case against Mr. Lacson 13 years after.
If Mr. Lacson is innocent, and we will grant him that, we would like to know who committed the crime. He should know, with all the investigative powers at his disposal at the time.