Albayalde orders relief of 4 cops in Ermita drug raid
Family of boy killed in police operation fears cover-up
Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde has ordered the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) to relieve the four operatives of drug enforcement units of Carbon Police Station of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) who were involved in the anti-drug operation that resulted to the death of Bladen Skyler Abatayo in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City on Tuesday.
At the same time, Albayalde expressed his condolence to the family of the four-year-old boy who was inside the bedroom of his house doing his homework when he was hit by a stray bullet as the police raided an alleged drug den that adjoined the Abatayo home.
PRO-7 director, Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, in a statement released last night, said the PNP chief has directed him to “relieve all involved PNP personnel pending investigation and to surrender their firearms for ballistics examination.”
Camp Crame also assured the family of Abatayo that “an impartial investigation by the PNP Internal Affairs Service is now being conducted in order to get to the bottom of this unfortunate incident.”
This developed as the family of Bladen Skyler Abatayo — the 4 yr. old boy who was killed in a police anti-drug operation, Tuesday, — has raised concern over their safety after the Cebu City Police Station 5 tagged the child’s father, Marc Anthony, as a drug personality.
Marc Anthony feared that the allegations against him will be used by police to silence the case involving his son’s death.
“I’m afraid that they would use these drug watch allegations to eliminate me and make it appear that my son is the collateral damage for my wrongdoings,” Marc
Anthony told Cebu Daily News on Friday.“
“We only asked for justice for my son. Why do they have to make up stories about me,” he further said in Cebuano.
Marc Anthony maintained that he was never engaged in the illegal drug trade either as a pusher or a user, even though he lived in an area that police deems to be a docking point of illegal drugs.
Marc Anthony was recently tagged by police as one of four men who were the subjects of a supposed anti-drug operation conducted at an abandoned house in Sitio Bato, Ermita at past 1 p.m. last Tuesday.
Bladen Skyler was killed by a stray bullet from a gun which fired off during an alleged grapple between policemen and the suspects.
The police allegations were refuted by neighbors who were present during the incident.
Witnesses claimed that the service firearm of a policeman went off when the latter accidentally slipped inside the dilapidated house.
Marc Anthony also maintained that he was not in the area when the incident happened and that closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage could prove his innocence.
CCTV footage owned by Barangay Ermita showed that Marc Anthony left their house, on board his motorcycle, at 12:15 P.M.
Videos also showed him passing through other streets in the barangay at 12:17 and 12:19 P.M. on his way to Panganiban Street.
Marc Anthony said he was heading to a motor parts and services store to get his motorcycle fixed and to buy a muffler for a friend.
Despite the police allegations against him, Marc Anthony vowed that he will not stop seeking justice for his son.
The family has asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to handle the case.
NBI operatives visited Ermita on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning to interview the victim’s neighbors and review CCTV footage which also showed a plainclothes policeman carrying the blood-drenched child moments after the incident.
The Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7), on Thursday, sent its initial investigation report on the boy’s death to its central office in Manila.
CHR-7 investigators noted inconsistencies in the public statements of the police after the incident, said CHR-7 Regional Director Arvin Odron.
“There were significant material inconsistencies found by the probe team based on the public statements released by the police and the statements released by the witnesses. We will get into this during the formal hearing which the CHR will set soon,” said Odron.
Members of CHR’s Quick Reaction Team visited Sitio Bato to conduct a forensic examination on Wednesday.
Odron said the boy’s parents and probable witnesses were cooperative and promised to provide material evidence during the investigation.
CHR-7 Chief Investigator Leo Villarino also urged residents, especially those who signed the petition for a CHR investigation, to submit sworn affidavits to make their testimonies official.
“All of these talks will be considered (only) until they are produced into writing and sworn under oath. Anha pa nato i-consider as statement (Only then can we consider this as statement),” said Villarino.
Subpoeanas will be issued to policemen present during the operation in compliance with due process.
“The rights of the respondents shall also be respected and observed as we ferret out the truth in every case,” said Odron.
Supt. Ryan Devaras, chief of the Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB) of the Cebu City Police, assured that they will cooperate with the NBI,
CCPO, he said, will also conduct its own probe separate from those being done by the NBI and CHR. /with Correspondent Benjie B. Talisic
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