Western Visayas police crime lab chief relieved
ILOILO CITY — The chief of the regional police crime laboratory in Western Visayas has been relieved from his post a day after he confirmed to reporters that seven of the nine leaders of an indigenous people’s group killed in a police operation in Capiz tested negative for gunpowder residue.
Police Col. Enrique Ancheta, chief of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory Office, himself confirmed on Thursday that he was relieved on Jan. 20 and has been put on floating status by the Police Regional Crime Laboratory central office.
He said he was removed on the same day he was directed to explain his statements made during an interview with radio station Bombo Radyo Iloilo on Jan. 19.
In the radio interview, Ancheta confirmed the negative paraffin test of seven of the nine leaders of the Tumandok or Panay Bukidnon tribe who were killed in the Dec. 30, 2020, police operation in Tapaz town in Capiz.
The nine tribe leaders died in the CIDG-led operation in seven villages in Tapaz and two villages in Calinog town in Iloilo. Sixteen others were arrested.
Police and military officials have earlier insisted that those who died fired first at police operatives who were serving a total of 28 search warrants for firearms and explosives. They also accused those killed and arrested as leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.
“I did not reveal the results and violated protocols. I did not offer the information. I was asked to confirm the information that the radio station already has and replied in the affirmative,” Ancheta told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Thursday.
He said the regional crime laboratory submitted a copy of the test result only to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), which had requested his office to conduct the test.
“We are not hiding anything and we cannot deny the truth,” he said.
Ancheta, who has been in the police service for 30 years, said he even refused to name those who tested negative and positive and referred further questions to the CIDG.
“I also explained during the interview that results of paraffin tests are not conclusive due to a number of factors and a negative result does not mean that the person tested did not fire a gun,” he said.
Paraffin tests are conducted as a corroborative test and evidence to determine if a person has recently fired a gun based on gunpowder residue. But results whether negative or positive are deemed nonconclusive on its own by courts and investigators as residue of nitrates can also be due to handling of other substances found, among others, in fertilizers, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.
The families of those killed and several village officials have refuted the police’s claims, insisting that those killed and arrested were unarmed and did not resist the authorities.
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