Top cop General Oscar Albayalde has relieved a provincial police chief and three city bosses over the death of 14 people in Negros Oriental.
Gen. Albayalde today (Tuesday, April 2) confirmed the relief of Colonel Raul Tacaca, director of the Negros Oriental police, Lieutenant Colonel Patricio Degay of Canlaon City, Lieutenant Kevin Roy Mamaradlo of Manjuyod, and Captain Michael Rubia of Santa Catalina.
He said the officers had been relieved to “pave the way for an impartial investigation” into the mass shooting on Saturday.
Rights groups have condemned the operations conducted by the police and the Army, which resulted in the death of the 14 individuals, who are believed to be farmers.
Twelve others were arrested in the simultaneous operations that took place in the three cities.
Police earlier had insisted that those killed were suspected to be hitmen and supporters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Col. Tacaca has previously claimed that all 14 died in shootouts with police and soldiers who were serving search warrants for illegal possession of firearms.
He also said that handguns, rifle grenades, ammunition and “subversive documents” had been seized in the raids.
The families of the dead insist that they had nothing to do with the NPA or any other armed insurgency groups. They say their relatives were unarmed and gunned down inside their houses.
The governor of the province, Roel Degamo, is also seeking answers. “I have no problem if they were serving legitimate search warrants. But the problem is, why were there so many dead? I cannot accept that,” he told the Inquirer.
He added that the provincial government would provide financial assistance to the families of those who died.
The Commission on Human Rights — a government watchdog — has sent a team to investigate the killings.