Cops probing fellow cops

The prudent thing for the PNP to do is to let another law enforcement agency investigate the absentee cops.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito dropped a bombshell Saturday when he revealed that five of the six police officers assigned to provide security to Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo were absent on the day the latter was killed along with eight others in the town of Pamplona on 4 March.

JV’s revelation was confirmed by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and House Speaker Martin Romualdez the next day, Sunday, when they called for separate investigations on the “mysterious” absence of the cops.

Romualdez tasked a House committee to summon the five absentee police officers and noted a similarity between the Degamo killing and the 2019 assassination of Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe.

The House leader noted that in Batocabe’s case, two of the three cops assigned to him did not show up for work on the day he was murdered.

While saying that he’s not inclined to “blindly accuse anyone,” Romualdez floated the possibility of a “collusion between some members of the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the perpetrators of this dastardly act.”

Romualdez said Degamo had reported to the PNP the threats that had been made to his life after he won the 2022 gubernatorial election via recount, thus the security measures put in place to protect him should have been more strict.

Security experts have a term to describe how to make it harder for criminals to undertake their objectives, like killing or robbing. It’s called “target-hardening”, the opposite of which happened when the cops who were supposed to be guarding Degamo absented themselves.

On Monday, PNP chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. assured Romualdez that the policemen assigned to Degamo would be made available to answer the questions of legislators in their probe of the circumstances that attended Degamo’s killing.

Azurin added there would be no cover-up in the PNP’s investigation into the absence of nearly all of Degamo’s security detail that made it easy for the gunmen to kill the governor and the eight others who apparently just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We will not resort to a cover-up. Those involved will be held liable,” Azurin said in Filipino during a press conference, adding he had already asked police officials of PNP Police Regional Office 7 to explain the absences and the apparent lapses in security at the governor’s residence.

Likewise, Azurin sought to correct the impression that five of Degamo’s police guards were absent at the same time. He explained that the six members of Degamo’s police security worked in rotation, thus only two or three personnel should have been on duty during the attack.

We welcome General Azurin’s assurances even if what he said was what people in media called “de kahon” or something to be expected.

However, since a possible “collusion” involving police officers has been raised, whether that has a basis or not, the prudent thing for the PNP to do is to let another law enforcement agency investigate the absentee cops.

When Remulla sought an investigation on the “missing” cops, we may surmise that he may have been thinking of the National Bureau of Investigation or the multi-agency Special Task Force Degamo doing the probing.

Whatever the result of the PNP investigation on its men, it would always be under a shadow of doubt, thus it would serve all for the PNP not to investigate itself.

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