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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WESTERN Visayas’ top cop sees nothing wrong if police officials in Iloilo City receive money from a politician as long as they don’t pocket the cash.

This was the reaction of Chief Supt. Isagani R. Cuevas, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6), to reports that ranking officials of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) received cash from Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul M. Gonzalez Sr. last week.

Among those who went to Gonzalez’s home were ICPO Director Melvin Mongcal and the chiefs of the seven district police stations in the city.

Reports said the police officials received P20,000 cash from Gonzalez during the meeting-cum-Christmas party.  

The report ruffled the feathers of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas who is now mulling a revamp of the ICPO hierarchy.

Treñas, who will run for congressman against Rep. Raul T. Gonzalez Jr., said police officials should refrain from accepting gifts from politicians as these might affect their performance and decisions.

Treñas said he might seek the revamp before the election season begins next month.

But Cuevas said any public official can summon police officers to discuss peace and order matters.

“Public officials like Sec. Gonzalez can meet our officers to give instructions pertaining to peace and order such as illegal drugs and petty crimes. Any public official can do so,” Cuevas said.

As regards the report that ICPO officials received cash, Cuevas said he assumes that the money might be a form of logistical support to the police stations.

“Maybe the money was intended for fuel and other expenses. The station chiefs will have to make liquidation report on how they spent the money given to them,” he said.

But it would be a different story if police officials used the money for personal benefit.

“That’s against our policy especially that we are approaching election season. We prohibit our officers from accepting gifts from politicians,” Cuevas said.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than 40 towns and cities in Western Visayas are considered probable political flashpoints as the May 2010 elections approach, according to the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

Supt. Ranulfo Demiar, PRO-6 regional public information officer, said 48 areas in the region were listed as areas of election concern based on their data during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

Demiar said the PNP and the Philippine Army are still validating if some of the areas should be retained or scrapped from the election hotspot list.

Iloilo province has the most number of probable poll flashpoints with 16 towns, Negros Occidental – 10, Antique – 8, Aklan – 7, Capiz – 5 and Guimaras – 2.

A total of 25 probable hotspots are classified as Category 1 which means these areas where the possibility of election-related violent incidents (ERVI) is high.

Category 2 areas (areas with history of ERVIs, intense political rivalries and high probability of occurrence of ERVIs with participation of private armed groups and rebel groups) numbered 23.

ERVIs are incidents which could affect or disrupt the electoral proceedings in the area or create a form of political tension that could eventually upset the electoral process, not only in the site of the incident but also in the surrounding areas during election days.

Areas with very serious ERVIs can be put under the control of the Commission on Elections which means that the local police and even military forces in the area will under the poll body’s direction.

Demiar said the PRO-6 will come up with an official list of election flashpoints after the PNP and the AFP have finished the validation process.

In the 2007 elections, the towns of Estancia and Igbaras were considered election hot spots because of intense political rivalry and the presence of armed rebels.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MISFITS in the PNP might be sent to replace cops that were relieved in the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre in Mindanao, the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) said.

C/Supt. Isagani R. Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said cops in Western Visayas who misbehave might be sent to Maguindanao if they don’t reform their ways.

“They should not be hard headed and behave well for they might be chosen to serve in Maguindanao,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said the PRO-6 is ready to send a team of police officers who will replace their colleagues who were sacked after 57 people were massacred in the heated political rivalry between the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans.

“If the headquarters requests that we send a team to Maguindanao, we have ready personnel to be dispatched in the area. But I hope that policemen in Western Visayas will not be chosen to replace the relieved officers,” Cuevas said, apparently concerned with the political tension in Maguindanao.

PNP Chief Jesus Verzosa ordered the relief of the entire Maguindanao Provincial Police Office (PPO) personnel to pave the way for an impartial investigation on the Maguindanao massacre.

According to C/Supt. Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, more or less 1,000 Maguindanao policemen would be replaced.

Some police officers in Maguindanao are believed involved in the massacre which also claimed the lives of 30 journalists.

Public losing confidence on city cops over Basag Kotse gang

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) can overhaul the entire Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) if the City Hall wants it.

C/Supt. Isagani R. Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in Negros Occidental has around 1,000 members who can be deployed to Iloilo City.

PRO-6 also has enough junior police commissioned officers (inspectors to chief inspectors) who can take over the 6 district police stations in the metropolis.

Calls for the revamp of the 500-strong ICPO headed by S/Supt. Melvin Mongcal echo as the city cops remain helpless in curbing the Basag Kotse gang preying on car owners in the city.

As of latest count, car thieves have already victimized 31 cars since February this year.

The latest Basag Kotse victim was an engineer who lost around P300,000 worth of valuables to suspects who smashed the glass window of his car parked inside a mall in Mandurriao district.

Cuevas said 500 RMG officers who finished their training can be readily deployed to Iloilo City.

Some of the RMG members served for 6 months in Jolo, Sulu at the height of the kidnapping of three Red Cross workers.

But Cuevas said it is the Iloilo City government that must request for the revamp of the entire ICPO force.

“Mayor Jerry Treñas can request for the relief of the entire force. The request must include an assessment to back up the request. We have to follow some rules and regulations particularly on the assignment and transfer of personnel as local officials have operational and administrative control over the police,” Cuevas said.

What will happen to the old ICPO force if the revamp happens?

Cuevas said they might be sent for retraining at the RMG headquarters as part of their thrust to reorient PNP officers on their work.

Despite the possible changes in his command, Mongcal still has the support of the PRO-6.

“We will still support S/Supt. Mongcal in everything he will do. That is our work here. We will give him all the resources he wants and all he has to do is check on his personnel to make sure that they execute their mission,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) is awaiting a copy of the official memorandum order that reportedly extended the gun amnesty program.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said the PNP higher command has not issued any word on the 30-day extension of the gun amnesty program extension which was announced in the national media Friday last week.

The amnesty, which expired October 30, gave gun owners with unlicensed firearms the chance to register their guns. Owners with expired licenses were also allowed to renewed their permits sans penalties.

The amnesty aims to reduce the number of illegal firearms in the country.

Cuevas said he will advise unregistered gun owners to prepare the needed documents in anticipation of the amnesty extension.

“If the extension takes effect, these gun owners will be prepared if they have their papers in order. For the meantime, we will observe status quo until we receive the memorandum order on the extension,” Cuevas said.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa had said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granted the request to extend the general firearms amnesty until November 30.

“This was in consideration of the numerous requests from the public and also [military and police commanders] in areas where typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng restricted their desire to avail of the firearms amnesty,” Verzosa said in a statement.

The police chief said that as of October 28, a total of 171,337 of the 1.1 million loose firearms have been accounted for since the police started an intensified campaign against loose firearms.

The government has also put up a reward system as part of the campaign against loose firearms.

“We have a reward system right now to account for loose firearms. Our proposal is to give P50,000 for recovery of three to five firearms. If there is increased recovery for stashes of firearms, we will evaluate the reward to be given,” Verzosa said.

He added that the Office of the President has allotted P5 million for the campaign against loose firearms.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE observance of All Saints’ and Souls’ Days in Western Visayas was relatively peaceful, according to the PNP.

Except for two fire incidents in Aklan and Bacolod City (see related stories), C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said the region remained orderly during the Halloween break.

Cuevas said the regular PNP officers and force multipliers such as tanods and auxiliary police managed to secure peace and order throughout Western Visayas.

S/Supt. Renato Gumban, OIC-Iloilo provincial police director, said municipal police stations tightened their watch on cemeteries and public places to deter criminals from striking.

Gumban said they did not receive any report on major crimes such as robberies in the province.

The 100 police auxiliaries and barangay tanods also helped the Iloilo City Police Office manage traffic and keep peace and order in the metropolis.

In Negros Occidental, only isolated king and shooting incidentas in Cadiz City, Candoni and Isabela were reported to the police.

C/Insp. Rico Santotome Jr, spokesman of the Negros Occidental PNP, said three shooting incidents were reported November 1-2 – two in Isabela town and one in Cadiz City.

On November 1, Francis Menis allegedly shot Junjun Ogatis at Barangay Bungahin, Isabela around 7:30am.

Ronaldo Estanda and Donald Malba survived gunshots from an unidentified suspect at Brgy. 4 Sunday morning. 

In Cadiz City, suspect Rex Tayunting allegedly shot Junrey Noval and Jonel Santillan past midnight Sunday using an unknown gun caliber.

Ramy Gonzales was hacked dead by Paquito Espanola November 1 at Sitio Mailad, Brgy. Cabia-an in Candoni, according to Insp. Anthony Cana, the town’s chief of police.

On Sunday afternoon, anti-illegal drugs operatives and the Pontevedra PNP arrested six persons at Brgy. Antipolo, Pontevedra for selling marijuana sticks and holding pot session.

Santotome said no untoward incidents happened in cemeteries and other public places.

S/Supt. Manuel Felix, Negros Occidental police director, credited the police and the public for cooperating with the PNP’s Oplan Kalag-Kalag drive.

Felix and Supts. Flomar Natuel and Armando Tubongbanua went around the province to check cemeteries and police presence.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MEMBERS of the 6thRegional Mobile Group (RMG) who were dispatched to Jolo, Sulu are heroes, not bad eggs.

This was the reaction of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) to a report in a tabloid (not The Daily Guardian) that the RMG contingent sent to Sulu was composed of cops with “various infractions.”

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, denied the report in a statement Tuesday.

“Most of our contingents were neophyte police. They have just finished their course on Special Counter-Insurgency Operations Unit Training (SCOUT) when the national headquarters directed us to send one company to augment the forces in Mindanao,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said the RMG personnel were sent to Jolo on April 10, 2009 when the Abu Sayyaff Group (ASG) kidnapped three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“They are heroes, not bad eggs,” Cuevas said.

The RMG contingent also formed part of Task Force Bandit in Jolo from April 10 to October 22.

The 75 cops arrived in Iloilo Sunday evening with tears welling in their eyes after their “tough” 6-month assignment in Mindanao.

Police Director Ray Roderos, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Visayas, and Cuevas led the welcome party for the cops.

On Monday, Roderos and Cuevas awarded medals to the RMG contingent for their achievements in Mindanao.

S/Insp. Jerry H. Abrogina, the contingent’s team leader, and four other officers received the Mindanao Campaign Medal and Medalya ng Kasanayan.

The 70 Police Non-Commissioned Officers (PNCOs) got Medalya ng Papuri (PNP Commendation Medal) “for their participation in weakening the Abu Sayyaff Group (ASG) forces which eventually led to the release of the kidnapped ICRC volunteers, destruction of ASG camps in the area, recovery of various firearms  and ammunitions, and confiscation of several motorboats and vehicles used in kidnapping activities.”

Roderos considered the contingents as heroes for their showing of dedication and bravery in risking their lives in the service of the people of Mindanao and of the country.

POSTHUMOUS AWARD

PRO-6 also recognized the late PO1 Jonel C. Aficionado who died last June 14 while in Sulu.

Aficionado’s wife Lenne Beth received the Medalya ng Papuri.

After Mindanao, the PRO6 contingents will continue its anti-insurgency campaign with the 6RMG in Negros Occidental.

“Most of the contingents have yet to finish the two-year minimum service in the mobile group,” Cuevas explained.

Neophyte police officers, including graduates of Philippine National Police Academy, are required to render duty for at least two years in mobile groups.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TWO persons died while three others were wounded when officials of two barangays in San Remegio, Antique clashed Tuesday afternoon.

Reports from Police Regional Office (PRO-6) said barangay kagawad Ronald Beriong of Banbanan, San Remigio and tanod Emilio Tañaquen of Lumpatan, San Remigio died of gunshot and hack wounds.

Injured were punong barangay Jimmy Ambrosio, his cousin Escolastico Ambrosio, both of Lumpatan and Antonio Calmacio of Banbanan.

The Antique police said the encounter happened between the officials of Banbanan and Lumpatan when Beriong and his four companions went to Lumpatan late afternoon Tuesday.

A conflict has been brewing between officials of the two leaders after Lumpatan officials accused Beriong as the leader of a gang of cattle rustlers who stole a carabao owned by Ambrosio.

The two groups exchanged shots and hacks when they crossed paths at Brgy. Lumpatan.

Beriong’s companions, who are suspected cattle rustlers, fled after the incident.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than P240,000 terminal fees was discovered missing inside the Bacolod-Silay Airport in Silay City, Negros Occidental Wednesday.

Reports reaching the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) said unidentified suspects filched a total of P240,400 cash from a steel cabinet at the second floor of the airport.

According to the Silay City police headed by Supt. Jerry Bartolome, the theft is an inside job as the suspects knew where the money was hidden.

The police have established the identities of the suspects but they refused to give details pending further investigation and filing of charges.

Antonio Alfonso, chief of the Civil Aviation Authority based at the airport, said they will impose severe penalties on any airport employee involved in the incident.

The airport management will also inspect the facility and revise security measures to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Iloilo chapter accepted the apology issued by the region’s top police official over reports that a lawyer was coddling the Bukas Kotse gang.

In a statement emailed to The Daily Guardian, IBP-Iloilo President Marven B. Daquilanea praised C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, for clarifying the issue and apologizing for the report.

“In behalf of the IBP Iloilo Chapter I am expressing our gratitude and appreciation for the reported apology of PNP Regional Director Isagani Cuevas,” Daquilanea said.

Daquilanea said the IBP will continue to work with the PNP in law enforcement and administration of justice.

“We reiterate our admiration and support to the PNP leadership in Region 6, and we hope that we can work with them in their law enforcement efforts for the better and more effective administration of justice. Thank you, Chief Supt. Cuevas, for clarifying a sensitive matter which would have been unnecessarily derogatory to the members of our organization,” he added.

Daquilanea said he sent the statement after reading TDG’s report on Cuevas’s apology to the IBP, the tri-media and the business community Tuesday.

“I hope this will help us maintain our good relationship with…Director Cuevas,” Daquilanea said.

Cuevas made the apology following a news item quoting a PRO-6 official as saying that a lawyer, a mediaman and a businessman were protecting car thieves.

Cuevas said the information did not come from the PRO-6 but was a leading question asked to S/Supt. Edgar Layon, PRO-6 directorial staff, during a press conference.

The PRO-6 director said he apologized as the report may have offended some personalities.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THREATS continue to plague the surviving members of the Gulanes family who were ambushed in Jaro, Iloilo City two weeks ago.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said they received reports that unidentified persons continue to send threatening text messages to the daughter and wife of George Gulanes.

Cuevas said the senders of the text messages might be members of a group of hired guns and robbers operating in the city and province of Iloilo.

George died after two gunmen riddled their pickup truck with bullets at the gate of San Paulo Village in Brgy. Bakhaw, Jaro early morning of September 3.

His wife Ronielyn was wounded in her hand and cheek while their 14-year-old daughter was unscathed.

An intelligence community source told The Daily Guardian that the suspects who ambushed the family sent text messages to the daughter and threatened to kill them also.

The daughter has left Iloilo to an undisclosed location for her safety. Her mother Ronielyn, who is recuperating in a hospital in Iloilo City, also plans to flee after what happened to their family.

Police are looking at the family’s lending business as a possible motive for the ambush.

The Gulanes couple was to attend a court hearing on an estafa case relative to their business on the day they were waylaid.

Cuevas said they will validate the information whether the rest of the Gulanes family have fled or are planning to get out of Iloilo.

“We have no information on their plans to hide but we will verify that,” he added.

Apparently, the mastermind and gunmen of the ambush intended to wipe out the whole Gulanes family.

The intelligence source said George told his daughter to get out of the truck when the suspects began firing at the vehicle.

Investigators surmised that George may have gone out of the pickup truck to lead the suspects away from his family.

Cuevas said they have received reports that the plan of the suspects was to eliminate the whole family “but these also need validation.”

“Anybody could come up with such information that is why we will verify that first. We need first hand information on this. Our action is to intensify our intelligence monitoring to pinpoint and arrest these suspects,” Cuevas said.

Asked if the Gulanes family continues to cooperate with investigators, Cuevas said the family gave information on who could be the suspects behind the ambush.

“So far in our investigation, the surviving victims identified one of the gunmen and this could be the probable reason why they are threatening the family in order to compel them to stop cooperating with the police. But our investigators will not stop until we have filed the case and arrested the suspects,” he added.

Cuevas said he has directed S/Supt. Melvin Mongcal, Iloilo City police director, to provide security to the Gulanes family.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) apologized to persons and groups who were offended by an intelligence report blunder on the operations of the Bukas Kotse gang.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, issued the apology to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Iloilo Chapter, the business community and the tri-media in a press conference in Camp Delgado Monday.

The apology stemmed from a news item which quoted S/Supt. Edgar Layon, PRO-6 chief directorial staff, as saying that a lawyer, a businessman and a journalist were coddling car thieves.

Cuevas issued the apology after learning that IBP-Iloilo headed by Atty. Marven Daquilanea is set to send a letter to PRO-6 protesting the statements attributed to Layon.

“I am sorry. We apologize to the IBP, the tri-media and other personalities who might have been offended by that information. If there were misquotations, we apologize to those we offended because we have no intention of hurting anybody,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said the PRO-6 has no official report on the allegations of the news item that quoted Layon.

“That information was volunteered to S/Supt. Layon. We have no report on the involvement of those personalities mentioned,” he said.

Layon had said he was misquoted in the news item and he did not give the information to the media.

Layon said he was asked a leading question whether the aforementioned persons were in cahoots with the Bukas Kotse gang.

Daquilanea said the PRO-6 pronouncement was unfair since it did not identify the lawyer who is allegedly protecting car thieves.

Daquilanea said the information also undermines their profession which is to provide legal assistance to complainants and suspects alike.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) will prod the PNP national headquarters to scrutinize suppliers of bullets and magazines to the police force.

 

This will be the main agenda of PRO-6 director Isagani Cuevas when the whole PNP organization holds its national command conference December 18.

 

Cuevas said he will recommend to the national command stricter assessment and accreditation of ammunitions suppliers after broaching the possibility that the bullets used by Regional Mobile Group (RMG) based in Negros Occidental were expired.

 

A team of RMG members were ambushed by suspected members of the New People’s Army December 3 at Brgy. Estado, Victorias City.

 

The ambush resulted in the death of PO1 Jean Tacadao and wounded police officers Anilou Patricio, Melanie Tupas, Marife Cantomayor and Jocelyn Quebar.

 

RMG-6 director Remus Zacharias Canieso said they tried to fire back at the rebels but their bullets did not fire. The magazines also failed to feed the bullets into their M16 Armalite rifles.

 

The dud bullets and defective magazines prompted the PRO-6 to investigate the quality of ammunitions issued to the RMG.

 

Cuevas said tighter assessment of the suppliers and their goods will ensure that the bullets they will use are not substandard and will not endanger the lives of police officers.

 

The PRO-6 chief said the bullets and magazines are purchased by Camp Crame and delivered to the regional offices which in turn distribute the items to field units.

 

Some of the bullets were supplied by Chinese manufacturers aside from local accredited suppliers, Cuevas added.

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