AMPATUAN, Maguindanao -- More than 800 policemen in Maguindanao will be relieved from their posts as the second phase of revamp of policemen earlier ordered by the government will take effect this week.
Maguindanao Police Director Alex Lineses said the relief will be made as part of the revamp that was ordered in connection with the November 23 Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people, including journalists.
Search operations for firearms and ammunitions believed owned by the Ampatuan clan, who is accused in the worst political killing in the country, will also continue, Lineses added.
The operations, however, will be conducted by fresh police personnel, along with the military, after the 845 policemen who are facing relief traded places with those plucked from Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Central Mindanao and Caraga.
Lineses said the fresh troops will be given briefings on the situation in Maguindanao, the stronghold of the Ampatuans, adding that an estimated 70 armed followers of the political family were still sighted in the area.
As of Saturday, Lineses said that at least 867 firearms and millions of ammunitions, believed part of the Ampatuan clan arsenal, have been seized.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership earlier ordered the recall of all policemen assigned in Maguindanao's 36 towns to allow an impartial investigation of the gruesome killings in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town that was blamed on the family of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.
Lineses said complaints like inappropriate way of wearing police uniform have been reported among the first batch of at least 300 policemen pulled out from Maguindanao to other parts of the southern Philippines.
Several of these relieved police officials and personnel had also been tagged as among those involved in the grisly massacre and one of them -- Inspector Rex T. Diongon -- was reported missing.
Diongon reportedly escaped from his custodians in Camp Crame over the weekend. He is former chief of the Provincial Mobile Group of Maguindanao when the gory manslaughter occurred.
Myrna P. Reblando, wife of slain Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, was shocked to learn that Diongon had escaped.
"We're also disappointed. [Mr.] Diongon was one of the prime suspects as key witnesses have revealed," said Mrs. Reblando, chair of the newly-formed Justice Now! an organization formed by families of journalists who were slain in the Maguindanao massacre.
She said Diongon allegedly conspired with Datu Unsay Mayor Andal U. Ampatuan Jr., the main massacre suspect, in carrying out the manslaughter.
Ampatuan Jr., who has denied involvement in the massacre, is now jailed at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila facing several counts of murder. (BSS/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)