• Kidapawan police chief sacked

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    AS the Senate opened its inquiry into the clash between protesting farmers and policemen, the police chief of Kidapawan City was sacked Thursday by the Philippine National Police Director General Ricardo Marquez.

    But before his relief, Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum testified at the investigation held by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Davao City.

    Marquez, who ordered an investigation into the violent dispersal of protesting farmers, said some police personnel opened fire at the protester.

    He said Tagum was replaced by Senior Superintendent Jose Briones.

    Tagum however maintained that it the protesters and not the police who attacked during the dispersal operation.

    “Video shows out troops stayed put but the protesters continued to hurl stones at us,” he said in his video presentation.

    He said he heard gunshots after he asked his men to help their fellow officers who are being pummeled by some protesters.

    Witnessess summoned to the Senate probe said that more than 80 protesters who were charged with direct assault were under police custody before the outbreak of violence.

    Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the Justice panel, said resource persons who attended the hearing claimed that the rallyists who were arrested and charged by police were arrested before the violent dispersal.

    “If that is really the case, then we have no case against these people for direct assault,” Pimentel said.

    He added that the members of the Kidapawan police did not contradict the allegations.

    “We are holding the hearing in Davao City because it is one of the nearest places to the Kidapawan incident. Some of the invited resource speakers belong to the protesting farmers, who are too injured to travel all the way to Manila,” the senator explained.

    Commissioner Gwendolynn Pimentel-Gana of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also told senators that three pregnant women and many senior citizens were among those being detained by police.

    Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile criticized his colleagues for using the Senate hearing in the Kidapawan incident to somehow gain publicity.

    Enrile said it is obvious that the hearing was conducted “in aid of election” and not in aid of legislation.

    Aside from Pimentel, Senate majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd.

    “I’ve never been told that there was a hearing. There must be an official notification to the members,” he added.

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