MANILA - The police chief of Calbayog City, Samar has been relieved from his post following the March 8 shooting that left city mayor Ronaldo Aquino and 5 others dead, and an "irresponsible conduct" of the station's intelligence officer, the Philippine National Police said Sunday.
Lt. Col. Neil Montaño is sacked effective Sunday for "command responsibility," said Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who serves as officer-in-charge after PNP chief Debold Sinas tested positive for the coronavirus.
The shooting incident last week that claimed the lives of Aquino and 5 others, including three policemen, and the request of Lt. Col. Fernando Calabria Jr. from a local court for a list of lawyers supposedly representing communist personalities are currently being investigated, said Eleazar.
Lt. Col. Rodolfo Albotra will succeed Montaño, while Calabria, who was sacked last March 12, will be replaced by Maj. Ruel Burlat.
The Commission on Human Rights, on Sunday, joined other groups in expressing alarm over the move of Calabria, calling it "unbecoming of a police officer" and saying it "transcends all legal and statutory basis, and threatens the legal profession."
"The right to an independent counsel of an accused, preferably of their own choice, is guaranteed by the Constitution, our laws, and the Rules of Court. By targeting lawyers, the concerned police officer equally threatens the rule of law," said Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesperson.
The CHR welcomed Eleazar's actions and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's comment "opposing and calling out the PNP."
Nine other non-commissioned officers of the Calbayog Police were also relieved and were reassigned to Samar Provincial Police Office to undergo a "refresher seminar," said Eleazar.
"This reorganization is intended not only to improve the investigation and intelligence capacity of the Calabayog City Police Station in the light of the two incidents that happened but also to infuse new ideas and strategies on peace and order with the deployment of new police officers in the area," he said.
Maj. Marino Estoño, meanwhile, is assigned as commander of the 1st Samar Provincial Mobile Forces, which is based in the city.
The PNP had claimed Aquino and his companions died in a shootout after the latter's group fired at a tailing police vehicle.
Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento, however, said the mayor was ambushed.
The incident happened a day after nine people, described by some groups as activists, died in separate police raids in provinces in the Calabarzon. Two days before the operations, President Rodrigo Duterte told authorities to kill armed communist rebels and ignore human rights in carrying out that directive.