PNP open to any probe on death of NPA finance officer: Eleazar
By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / Philippine News Agency
MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said the PNP is open to any investigation into the death of a top Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) official during a gunfight with police operatives serving warrants of arrest in Barangay Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo on Friday.
In a press statement on Sunday, Eleazar said it is within the rights of the relatives and colleagues of Reynaldo Bocala, finance officer of the Kilusang Rehiyon (KR)-Panay, to seek an independent investigation.
Rights group Karapatan has called for an independent probe on the incident, claiming that Bocala should still be under the protection of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“If they want an independent probe, so be it. Bukas po ang PNP doon. Pero gaya ng sa ibang kaso, papasok ang Internal Affairs Service dito para magsagawa ng motu proprio investigation upang alamin kung may pagkukulang ang mga operatiba kaya humantong sa pagkamatay ng suspek (PNP is open to it. But like other cases, the Internal Affairs Service would conduct motu proprio investigation if the operatives committed lapses that led to the death of the suspect),” Eleazar said.
He said part of the PNP Internal Affair Service’s (IAS) duty is to look into the complaints of Bocala’s relatives and companions.
“Kung ano man ang magiging findings at rekomendasyon ng IAS ay base sa mga pahayag at ebidensyang makakalap nito (Whatever the findings and recommendation of the IAS, these would be based on the statement and gathered evidence),” Eleazar said.
Eleazar said Bacola, alias Bading, was killed in a "legitimate" operation covered by warrants of arrest.
He took exception to the allegations that police operatives planted evidence on Bocala, emphasizing that the law enforcers were there to arrest the NPA official based on court-issued warrants.
"Ang pagtatanim ng ebidensya ay lagi nang paratang sa ating kapulisan kahit gaano pa ka-lehitimo ang mga operasyon (Planting of evidence has been the constant accusations even if our police have legitimate operations). In this case, our policemen served arrest warrants against Bocala but Bocala and his companion resisted,” Eleazar said.
Right to protect themselves
He said the police operatives also have the right to protect themselves.
“Hindi naman pwedeng tumayo lang doon ang mga operatiba at hindi man lang proteksyunan ang kanilang mga sarili kung ganoong, ayon sa inisyal na report, ay naging agresibo ang suspek (The operatives cannot just stand there and not even protect themselves if, according to the initial report, the suspect acted aggressively),” he added.
Police operatives of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6), backed by military personnel, served arrest warrants issued by different courts against Bocala at his known location in Iloilo.
According to police reports, Bocala resisted arrest and fired at the policemen, triggering a shootout with the suspect and his companion. Both died in the encounter.
“With the termination of peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF (National Democratic Front), this JASIG can no longer be invoked. This guarantee of immunity from arrest is an act of good faith and confidence-building measure in the peace negotiations between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF,” he said.
Eleazar said the NDF negotiators and consultants went into hiding after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the JASIG in February 2017.
Bocala carried a PHP4.8 million bounty for cases of robbery in band with frustrated homicide and damage to property with the use of motor vehicle and unlicensed firearms; robbery with serious physical injuries; violation of Presidential Decree 1744 (Destructive Arson); and murder.
He was the husband of Maria Concepcion “Concha” Araneta, who is the deputy secretary of KR-Panay.
Before being head of the Regional Taxation Implementing Group, Bocala, according to the PRO-6, was also secretary and deputy secretary of the Southern Front Committee of the Panay Regional Party Committee.
Also killed during the operation was Bocala’s alleged aide, Willy Epago (alias Ramon). Both were declared dead on the spot.
The CPP-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)