A TEAM from the Philippine National Police (PNP) national headquarters arrived in Negros Oriental on April 4 to investigate circumstances behind the death of 14 farmers in simultaneous police operations over the weekend.
The team from the PNP's Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) in Camp Crame, Quezon City was instructed by higher authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on the deaths of the 14 who were suspected to be New People's Army (NPA) members during search and arrest warrant operations in Canlaon City, Manjuyod, and Sta. Catalina, said Chief Master Sergeant Edilberto Euraoba III, spokesperson of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (Noppo).
Police Brigadier General Omega Jireh D. Fidel heads the DIDM investigating team. It was not immediately known how long they will be staying in Negros, Euraoba said.
The DIDM team has been given 15 to 30 days to submit their investigation report to PNP chief, General Oscar Albayalde, he added.
Following the death of the 14 farmers, Colonel Raul Tacaca, Noppo chief, was relieved effective April 2 and was replaced by Colonel Ali Baron as OIC provincial police director.
Also relieved were Lieutenant Colonel Patricio Degay, Canlaon City police chief; Lieutenant Kelvin Roy Mamaradlo, Manjuyod chief of police; and Captain Michael Rubia, police chief of Sta. Catalina.
They were replaced by Major Ruben Verbo Jr. (Canlaon City), Major Neolie Laturnas (Manjuyod), and Lieutenant Rhuel Piñero (Sta. Catalina).
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said they would provide "the best legal defense" for all the police officers who participated in the controversial operations.
Many groups have condemned the killings, while the Commission on Human Rights also embarked on its own investigation.
The slain alleged NPA members were identified as Steve Arapoc, Sunny Palagtiw, Edgardo Avelino, Manolo Martin, Esmael Avelino, Rogelio Recomono, Ricky Recomono, Genes Palmares, Eric Acabal, Ano Enojo Rapada, Gonzalo Rosales, Mario Pañares, Melchor Pañares, and Franklin Lariosa.
Police authorities said the farmers resisted arrest although their families and relatives said their kin were unarmed and defenseless. (PNA)