COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/29 September) – At least 300 policemen from Maguindanao who were relieved from their posts immediately after the November 23, 2009 massacre and dispersed to five other Mindanao regions have been ordered recalled, allegedly on orders from the Philippine National Police central office in Metro Manila.
Sr. Supt. Federico Castro, chief of staff of the PNP in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the order was issued by “higher ups” last week and the policemen were starting to return to Maguindanao from their assignments in other regions, effective today.
Castro said the returning policemen, “could be of big help (because) those powerful politicians they feared before are gone. I think they will work with us now.”
He said the return of the policemen is a prelude to lifting the state of emergency declared over Maguindanao.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu told MindaNews he was informed about the recall order “nung isang araw” (the other day) by acting provincial police chief Senior Supt. Marcelo Pintac.
“Order daw ng taas,” (The order reportedly came from up there), he said.
Maguindanao has remained under a state of emergency since November 24, 2009, with a few days in December under martial law.
“Dapat hindi ibalik lahat,” (Not everyone should be returned), said Mangudadatu, whose wife, youngest and eldest sisters, were among the 58 persons flagged down along the highway and later killed by armed men allegedly led by then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr.
Mangudadatu’s wife and sisters were in a convoy along with 32 media workers, en route to Shariff Aguak, when flagged down by armed men led by Ampatuan, Jr., and herded 3.5 kilometers uphill where they were killed, some of them buried in mass graves.
Ampatuan, Jr., was supposed to run for governor of Maguindanao.
Mangudadatu said the relieved policemen of the Ampatuan-controlled towns should not be returned. He named these towns as Shariff Aguak, Datu Hofer Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Rajah Buayan, Shariff Saydona, Mamasapano, Datu Piang, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Salibo.
Maguindanao has 36 towns.
Castro said it is up to the Regional Public Safety Management Battalion of the PNP-ARMM to take charge of new assignments of the recalled police force.
A total of 197 persons have been implicated in the massacre, among them the Ampatuans.
The entire Maguindanao police force, alleged to be loyal to the Ampatuans, was relieved a day after the massacre, the police chief and several other officials detained, too. The Maguindanao police force was composed of at least 1,100 but the first 800 were reportedly recalled several months later, said Sr. Supt. Alex Lineses, former acting Maguindanao police chief before Pintac.
But lawyer Prima Quinsayas, counsel for several media victims, said, “right now, aside from question of integrity and possible cover up, I see no other implications on the case considering most of the cops directly involved are already detained.”
As of September 1, of 63 police personnel with warrants of arrest, 50 had been arrested and 13 were still at large.”
Castro said it is up to the Regional Public Safety Management Battalion of the PNP-ARMM to take charge of new assignments of the recalled police force. (Ferdinandh Cabrera with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)