LGU, police officials deny 'extortion' in N. Cotabato highway-A A +A
Sunday, September 2, 2012
KIDAPAWAN CITY - An official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in North Cotabato has denied the allegations made by the communist guerillas that Highway Patrol Group (HPG), formerly Traffic Management Group, is involved in "massive" highway extortion activities.
Senior Superintendent Cornelio Salinas, provincial director of the Cotabato PNP, said operatives of the HPG are tasked to check and monitor stolen motorcycles and carnapped vehicles plying along the Cotabato-Davao highway.
Since July, the PNP has monitored several motorcycle theft incidents in several towns in the province, reports said.
In Kidapawan City, four motorcycles parked in a subdivision were stolen by still unidentified suspects, two of which were recovered the next day, reports said.
At around 4:30 a.m. Friday, a blue Honda 125 motorcycle owned by Wilmer Benimerito, an operative of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Team (CIDT) in North Cotabato, which was parked in front of their house at Barangay Lanao here was stolen by unknown thieves.
The town of Makilala, where the attack of the NPA happened, has also several cases of motorcycle theft incidents recorded since July.
"The primary task of the highway patrol policemen is to check whether the vehicles plying this route have documents or are not stolen or carnapped. These cops are not combatants so why attack them?" Salinas said.
Ka Efren, spokesperson for the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Far South Mindanao, said that one of the reasons for staging the attack against the HPG last Thursday was to respond to several complaints that allegedly many traffic policemen are extorting money from motorists and poor drivers.
"Every day they would collect thousands from our poor drivers. The operation last Thursday at Sitio Patulangon, Barangay Malasila in Makilala was a legitimate military attack. The HPG members are legitimate targets of our military offensives," Ka Efren said in an interview over DxND-AM of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation.
The daylight attack killed two HPG members identified as Police Officer 1 (PO1) Raul Pablo and PO3 Rufino Sumugat and wounded four others, three of them civilians, reports said.
Relatives of the slain HPG operatives condemned the killing.
"I am very angry. If only I have guns right now, I would avenge the death of my husband," wife of PO3 Sumugat said. Sumugat's wife is two months pregnant.
They have a five-year old son, who, according to the wife, did not understand why his father has to suffer such terrible kind of death.
"Why would they kill my husband? Does he deserve to die like this? They have to pay for this," the wife said.
Salinas has challenged progressive human rights groups to issue similar condemnation of the attack.
"Aside from the fact that the NPAs killed policemen, civilians were also caught in the crossfire," Salinas said.
The wounded civilians were motorists who were flagged down by the HPG operatives at the time the attack happened, Salinas said.
"Where are those groups who claim that they are advocates of human rights? Who would cry justice for the slain cops and the families affected because of the attack?" asked Salinas.
The Army in North Cotabato is bent on filing complaints of violations to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and criminal charges against the perpetrators.
“The attack last Thursday was clear violation of the CARHRIHL. They are answerable for that,” said Lt. Manuel Gatus, commander of the Bravo Company of the 57th Infantry Battalion.
Also, the NPAs used children in the attack, according to Gatus.
“Witnesses said that the attackers were young people, aged 15 and 16. That, in itself, is clear violation of human rights,” said the military official.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 02, 2012.