Were Cebu City cops’s inutile last Friday?

October 30, 2019

I’M asking the same question being posed by many police officials and the public in the wake of the killing of Clarin, Misamis Occidental Mayor David Navarro while being escorted by a group of heavily-armed Cebu City policemen on Friday last week.

“I can’t believe they were so inutile, so useless that afternoon,” a retired police general told me after learning of the daring attack in the media and other Cebu City contacts.

I got many friends in the Cebu City police force who are known for their dedication to the service, their no-nonsense effort to counter drugs, insurgency and other criminality. But sad to say, their effort was put to naught by that very embarrassing incident, an incident which put to question the police’s capability to secure persons already in their custody.

Many officials told me that last Monday’s reenactment of the ambush also amplified the obvious ineptness of the officers who were with the slain mayor. Imagine, those cops were surprised by the gunmen, were ordered to alight from their patrol vehicles and forced to drop to the ground before the other suspects sprayed the mayor with automatic gunfire killing him on the spot.

These are some of the questions posed by many: Why did the gunmen easily escape in the city which is known for its heavy traffic too? Was there a police dragnet which could have easily led to their interception? Was there an effort to make any follow-up operation to get the killers?

A police dragnet is SOP in every major crime in the country and in many cases, they have been successful in making arrests. Just last week, Cebu policemen shot and killed four suspects in a daring robbery at the J Centre Mall in Mandaue City after intelligence agents monitored all possible escape routes of the suspects who were believed to have stolen some P130 million worth of cash and jewelry. I was told by my friends from the Central Visayas police force that shortly after the mall heist, police monitored all ports in the province which could be used as a getaway route of the robbers. Indeed, the robbers were intercepted at the Bogo port.

During the October 9 murder of Batuan, Masbate Vice Mayor Charlie Yuson III in Sampaloc, Manila, members of the Manila Police District immediately launched a massive dragnet which led in the arrest of four of the suspects while on board a van they allegedly used in the killing. Sad to say, the Manila Prosecutor’s Office ordered the release of the four suspects for ‘further investigation.’

President Duterte on Monday ordered the Police Regional Office 7 headed by Brigadier General Val de Leon to stop its investigation into the death of Mayor Navarro. De Leon is the youngest member of PMA ‘Makatao’ Class of 1989 to become a PNP Regional Director.

Many officials told me that if they were Brig. Gen. de Leon, they could have ordered the administrative relief of some local police officers who were with the mayor when they were killed. 

The President seems to be not in a good mood in the aftermath of the killing of the mayor and the PNP will respect the decision of the President and will comply with his order, said PNP spokesman, Brig. Gen. Bernie Banac.

The PNP spokesperson  was right when he said that the PNP will also be cooperating with the National Bureau of Investigation to ensure an impartial investigation of the daring gun attack.

Why? Because the President had raised doubts about the possible involvement of the police on Navarro’s death and said he wants the NBI to take over the investigation.

 Around 10 gunmen killed Navarro after surprising him and his police escorts along M. Velez Street in Cebu City around 2 p.m. last Friday. The victim who was then to be charged with slight physical injury, acts of lasciviousness and usurpation of authority, was about to be taken for inquest at the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office when killed. Four others including two policemen were injured in the surprise attack.

Last Monday, PNP Officer-in-Charge, Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa said they are looking into possible lapses committed by the police escorts of Navarro when he was shot dead. “We will find out if the mayor’s police escorts committed lapses specifically on why they failed to return fire at the suspects,” said the PNP-OIC.

Initially, de Leon said that last Friday’s ambush happened so fast that policemen escorting the mayor were not able to properly react. Ironically, the mayor was made to wear a. bullet-proof vest by his escorts prior to the ambush.

The reenactment showed that the mayor was in the middle of a police convoy when he was shot. The official was about to be taken to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office where he will be inquested for physical injury, acts of lasciviousness and usurpation of authority  then.

The investigation showed that Mayor Navarro was on board a Cebu City police patrol car with some local policemen while in front of them was another vehicle with more members of the Cebu City Police Office. Behind them was another vehicle carrying Navarro’s family and some police escorts.

While traveling, a white van cut them off and five to 10 gunmen emerged from the vehicle and pointed their weapons at the policemen threatening to shoot them if they will react. The policemen were also forced out of their vehicles and made to lie down the ground by the gunmen.

The armed men then sprayed the vehicle carrying the mayor with automatic gunfire killing the official who sustained at last 25 gunshot wounds. What happened between, during and after the attack should be answered by the local police less they would be forever described as useless by the public, the family of the mayor in particular.