VM Duterte wants regional police chief out for New Year’s day arrest of NPA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 January) – Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte warned he would demand the ouster of the regional police director and withdraw the city government’s support to the police if the New Year’s day arrest of a New People’s Army (NPA) fighter could derail the scheduled resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.

”If this will create a major issue in the peace talks, then I will demand for his ouster,” Duterte said during his Sunday television program, “Gikan sa Masa para sa Masa” (From the Masses, For the Masses).

”You should go if you are incompetent and if you don’t know what you are doing to this country,” Duterte said, adding that the law protecting Tango’s tenure can only go as far as how he performed his duty.

Duterte said he will withdraw all support of the city government to the police.

”If you can operate independently of the civilian sector, then go ahead, but don’t expect any help from the city government,” a furious Duterte said, his statements peppered with invectives which the television station edited before airing.

”Adto mo sa City Hall (You can go to City Hall) but remember it is the city council that will approve the budget, didto ta mo ihawon” Duterte said. “Ihawon” literally means to slaughter.

A combined team from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the 4th Special Action Battalion of the Philippine National Police carried out the arrest of NPA guerilla Edwin Brigano at 3 a.m. dawn on New Year’s day, only three days before the end of the mutually-declared truce between the government and the NDF.

Duterte said the police could just have encircled and monitored the area and wait for another two or three days before the ceasefire lapsed before making the arrest. ”But (regional police director Pedro) Tango and company wanted to make a statement and pushed through with the arrest,” he said.

He said the arrest may have defied the mayor’s invitation to NPA fighters to spend their Christmas in the city but the police ”disrespect” not to him but to the President who had earlier ordered the armed forces to connect with NPA to come up with solutions to end Asia’s longest running Communist insurgency.

Duterte pointed an accusing finger at Tango, saying that the arrest had the effect of derailing the talks scheduled in February. ”It was done in bad faith,” the vice mayor said. He said the New Year’s day arrest may have prevented the chance for both sides to connect with each other and open their minds to the talks.

”Why can’t they wait for the truce to end?” he asked. ”It’s because Tango wanted to make a statement.”

He also said that as a lawyer, Tango was supposed to have understood that outside the 19-day truce, all NPAs must be ”arrested at all times, with or without warrant of arrests because in this country, rebellion is a crime.”

Duterte also said he had often been asked by police’ relatives to intervene in the NPA capture of policemen and yet, he has been perceived as ”friendly” to the NPA when he advocates for both sides to talk. He said he had made the offer for the NPA guerrillas to spend Christmas in the city not because he was a friend of the NPA but because he is a government official who must talk to both’sides. ”I have to talk because I’m an elected official, I have to go around,” he said.

”But I’ve sworn my loyalty to the Philippine government and the Constitution.”

He said the police and the military has failed to address the insurgency that has been going on for almost 50 years and this might be a chance for both sides to talk and come up with lasting solutions.

”Why not allow the other side of government (to look) for ways to end the 42-year-old conflict?” Duterte said, referring to the new government panel Alex Padilla who is initiating informal talks with his NDF counterpart Luis Jalandoni for the scheduled start of the formal peace talks next month.

Police Supt. Querubin Manalang, however, said the police did not violate the provision of the 19-day ceasefire, citing the December 13, 2010 PNP national headquarters memorandum. He said that it’s the prerogative of the city government to cut off its support for ”the police but the latter will continue to do its work,” he said.

The fifth paragraph of the order from Camp Crame distributed to the regional offices said that the ”suspension of police operations shall not cover normal law enforcement operations and shall be without prejudice to actions aimed at protecting people and the communities.”

Manalang said that the arrest fell under the police’ normal law enforcement operation. He also said that the arrest was made by the CIDG and the PNP 4th Special Action Battalion headed by Police Supt. Ortega and beyond the jurisdiction of PNP regional office chief Tango. ”We want to clarify that the arrest was made by the unit (not under) Col. Tango,” he said.

Although the police has a budget from the national government, the city has been subsidizing its budget forvehicles, communication and radio equipment, even spare parts and wheels.

”Practically all police expenses come from the city government because we wanted our city to be peaceful,’ but we can also do without that,” he said.

”If that,s the way you behave, you will not get anything from the civilian government,” Duterte said.

”There is no law mandating local government units to spend on the police,” he said.

Duterte also added that the mayor, Sara Duterte, may have withdrawn support from the combat-heavy operation of the military, but that the P1 million daily budget of the anti-terror unit Task Force Davao has been taken from the city coffers until now.

The mayor is Duterte’s daughter. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)