RONDA COPS BOOTED OUT
The chief of police of Ronda town and eight others were ordered to vacate their posts as police authorities in Cebu scrambled to plug security holes that resulted to the assassination of the town mayor pre-dawn on Wednesday.
Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), on Thursday, relieved Senior Insp. Jay Soto Palcon, the town’s police chief, and at least eight of his personnel while an investigation was being conducted over their failure to promptly respond to the killing of Mayor Mariano Blanco III of Ronda in southwestern Cebu.
Palcon and the other policemen were ordered to immediately report to the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) headquarters in Cebu City.
“I have to relieve the chief of police of Ronda and all those on duty that night following allegations that they did not respond accordingly,” said Sinas in a press conference on Thursday.
“We will determine whether they committed some lapses. They have to explain what happened,” he added.
Senior Supt. Manuel Abrugena, director of the CPPO, was instructed by Sinas to look for the replacement of the relieved policemen.
Blanco’s daughter Ann Marie said she could only hope that justice would be served for the death of their father. (Separate story on page 2)
The mayor’s body lies in state at their residence in Barangay Poblacion, Ronda town, located 82 kilometers southwest of Cebu City.
His burial is set on September 16.
Amid criticisms from ranking officers in Camp Crame over the failure of the police to immediately respond to the shooting incident, Sinas said he found no reason to relieve Abrugena.
“He’s still doing okay,” the region’s top policeman said.
Sought for comment, Abrugena said he would follow whatever directive the regional police would give to him.
“Whatever orders that will be given, I will obey,” he said.
Palcon was not available for a statement yesterday.
Policemen in Ronda have been criticized for not immediately responding to the killing of Blanco inside his office at the municipal hall past 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Blanco, who was among the alleged narco-politicians publicly identified by President Rodrigo Duterte, suffered five gunshot wounds on his body.
When the mayor was gunned down by unknown assailants inside his office at the municipal hall, only two policemen were left in the station and did not respond to the shooting incident that was just five meters away.
SPO1 Dionisio Tagopa, chief investigator of the Ronda Police Station, earlier explained that the two policemen who were left on duty at the station did not hear the bursts of gunfire since it was raining at that time.
He said they were also undermanned because five of their operatives on duty were out to serve an arrest warrant against a suspect while the other policemen were out on a roving patrol because of the then ongoing activities related to the upcoming town fiesta.
But Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr., spokesperson of the Philippine National Police, said the provincial director and the chief of police in Ronda could be sanctioned if authorities find lapses in their actions on the murder of Blanco.
“The oversight committee at the regional level will evaluate their subsequent action. If there are some lapses or inadequacy in their action, definitely, the axe will fall where it should,” he said in a press briefing in Manila.
Durana said the local police should set up a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) to investigate the killing.
“It is something that they should throw themselves into, throw the resources and their energies into,” he said
“SITG agad (immediately). What’s the deadline? As soon as possible, that’s the deadline,” Durana said. “Automatic ‘yan (that’s automatic). If they haven’t done that, there may be some sanctions.”
Durana noted that PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde earlier ordered the local police to “closely coordinate” with local executives to ensure their safety.
“Now, why did this incident happen? Sinunod ba ang direktiba ng (Did they follow the directive of the) Chief PNP? Kung hindi (If they did not), again, there would be appropriate actions,” Durana said.
He stressed that the regional director of Central Visayas should also investigate if the Cebu police exerted enough security efforts before Blanco was murdered.
Durana extended condolences from the PNP to the family of the slain mayor and assured justice will be served.
“Makakaasa po sila na hindi magpapahinga ang Philippine National Police (They can expect that the PNP will not rest) until we get into the bottom of this case and we bring the perpetrators in the bars of justice,” he said.
As ordered by Camp Crame, Sinas created an SITG that is headed by Abrugena.
He said they continue to look for closed-circuit television cameras in the area surrounding the municipal hall to establish the circumstances during the shooting incident and to possibly identify the perpetrators.
The municipal hall of Ronda has no CCTV cameras.
Sinas surmised that the murder of Blanco had something to do with the latter’s alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
“The murder was well-planned. We’re looking into the drug personalities that might be associated with him. But right now, we could not identify one. These are speculations, and we’ll try to connect the dots,” he said. /WITH REPORTS FROM BENJIE B. TALISIC AND INQUIRER.NET
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