The entire police force of Pulupandan Police Station, except for its newly-installed officer-in-charge, was relieved Saturday, and replaced by troopers of the Public Safety Company of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, provincial police caretaker Senior Supt. Celestino Guara yesterday said.
Guara said the replacement of about 20 policemen assigned in Pulupandan town was ordered by Camp Crame, and is aimed at preventing them from being influenced by politicians.
This was also after Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. wrote to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who recommended the relief of several police officers in Negros Occidental, and the filing of charges against Pulupandan Mayor Magdaleno Peña.
On March 25, Senior Insp. Edfel Balibadlan and two other policemen assigned in Pulupandan were also relieved allegedly for “escorting” Peña, who challenged Jose Maria Valencia, chief of staff of Marañon, to a fistfight at the Provincial Capitol Building.
Balibadlan, PO3 Ronald Palacios and PO2 Lelanie Lagoting have been placed under technical arrest and were disarmed, pending investigation of their acts. Senior Insp. Anthony Grande replaced Balibadlan as Pulupandan police officer-in-charge.
Guara said the relief of the entire Pulupandan police force was approved by the Commission on Elections.
He also said the relieved Pulupandan policemen will swap assignments with the Public Safety Company troopers.
Marañon had asked Roxas to direct the Philippine Army, instead of the Philippine National Police, to assist the Comelec in the conduct of the May 13 elections in Pulupandan, Escalante City, and in other election hotspots in Negros Occidental.
Last week, six suspected New People’s Army assassins shot dead Police Officer 1 Bejein Tanguan and police asset Joseph Lutrago, a political campaigner of mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona and the United Negros Alliance, which is headed by Marañon, at the poblacion of Escalante, about 500 meters away from the police station.
Pulupandan and Escalante were among the 13 towns and cities in Negros Occidental placed under the election watchlist of the PNP and Comelec, due to history of election-related incidents, intense political rivalries and presence of armed men.
Peña, who is supporting the gubernatorial bid of his relative, Vice-Gov. Genaro Alvarez Jr., said he had not violated the Election Code, or any other provisions of the law through the use of the local police.
He also said Balibadlan and two other policemen did not escort him to the Capitol, and were already in Bacolod City, and just followed him there to watch the debate he had hoped to have with Marañon.
Peña, who is not seeking reelection as Pulupandan mayor, also asked if Marañon was incapable of addressing the problems of the province that he had to seek the help of Roxas.
Marañon has also recommended the relief of Guara as NOPPO caretaker, for alleged clear and apparent bias and partiality, and for allowing himself to be used in threatening and terrorizing people of Negros Occidental.
Guara, who got the ire of Marañon for declaring that the recent killings in Escalante have nothing to do with politics and were purely insurgency-related, vehemently denied that he is engaged in partisan politics.
The Escalante police officer-in-charge, Supt. Jefferson Descallar, is also up for relief, and Guara has recommended Supt. Leonardo Borromeo, who used to be assigned at the Bacolod City Police Office, to replace him.
Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional police director of Western Visayas, meanwhile, said there is no evidence showing that Guara engaged in partisan politics.*GPB