The Halili assassination: What went wrong with his security

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2018 08:52 PM

MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) said the role of police and security escorts assigned to people considered to be Very Important Persons or VIPs is crucial. 

According to the Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) VIP Security Course director Police Chief Inspector Vic Acosta, not one security layer in the concentric ring should be missing in order to ensure the safety and security of the VIP. 

In a CCTV footage showing Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili being shot, people were seen dispersing in panic and even the mayor’s security personnel appeared rattled. 

Gunshots were heard aimed towards the suspected area of the gunman, even without a clear visual of the assailant. This, according to police, is a mistake on the part of the security escorts. 

Acosta said it is important for all security aides to undergo proper training. 

He said there is a standard procedure to secure the VIPs. For example, they should be within the concentric ring of security which is 3-layered. 

The first layer, inner security, is composed of 1-3 personnel closely monitoring the VIP, scanning the immediate surrounding. This could be a member of the PSPG, who is ready to take a bullet or use his body to cover the VIP. 

Middle security, on the other hand, are those assigned to observe those people getting close to the VIP. Acosta said middle security is composed of intelligence, SWAT, explosive and ordnance division, ambulance and rescue. 

Outer security is in charge of securing all other areas far from the VIP. It is composed of snipers, civil disturbance management, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and security provided by police stations. 

“Very essential lahat 'yan, pag nawala 'yan, pwede tayong malusutan, pwedeng may mangyari. 'Pag sa inner natin, delikado ang VIP natin, sa intelligence natin, in case na merong nasa indoor tayo, kunyari ay papasok ang VIP sa isang lugar, kailangan na sila ang titingin dyan,” Acosta said. 

(All layers of security are very important. If one layer is compromised, something bad may happen. If the inner layer is compromised, in case the VIP has to go indoors, the intelligence unit has to take charge.)

If a VIP is shot by a sniper, the outer security should be able to identify right away where the shot originated. 

Acosta said it is not right for security escorts to shoot and retaliate, especially if they do not know where the enemy is, as in the case of Mayor Halili’s security escorts.

“Kapag gumana ang sniper, kailangan kita ng outer ring 'yan kasi ang middle ring 'di nya makikita yan, at least yung unang tama sa VIP, dapat maitakbo na namin, mai-extract na ang VIP at kahit pag may threat pa lang,” Acosta explained. 

(When there is a sniper, those in the outer ring should know where the sniper is because those in the middle cannot see it. If the VIP is hit, those in the middle layer should be able to extract the VIP once there is a threat.)

Acosta pointed out that there was no ambulance on standby during the incident, especially since the incident happened in city hall. 

He said it was important that an ambulance was in the area to immediately extract and bring the wounded VIP to the nearest hospital. 

Acosta said it is important that all security escorts are trained since the lives of the VIP are in their hands. 

“Kung basta basta kukuha lang ng hindi trained, ang VIP ang lagi namin ini-emphasize ay 'yung scanning, 'yung training na tinitingnan ang paligid. We should not use cellphones during duty,” Acosta said. 

(We always emphasize the importance of hiring well-trained security personnel. They should scan, they should be trained to observe their surroundings. We should not use cellphones during duty.)

If a VIP is killed, it is possible for the PNP to file a case against the PSPG assigned to the VIP. Acosta said this is not necessarily the same for private detective agencies. 

Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza, Regional Director of Calabarzon Police, said their investigation revealed that members of the mayor’s action anti-crime group were the ones who opened fire. 

“Based on our investigation, yung mga putok na lumabas sa video are members of the Mayor's Anti-Crime Group and all firearms were requested for turnover and for checking whether these are licensed firearms. Wala pong pulis doon,” Carranza said.

(Based on our investigation, the gunshots heard on video were from the members of the Mayor's Anti-Crime Group and all firearms were requested for turnover and for checking whether these are licensed firearms. There were no cops there.)

Carranza said it was Mayor Halili who formed the group when his deputized police was removed from him last 2017. 

“So, that is his own creation and based on our initial findings, the licenses of the firearms were under juridical licenses so it was bought by the city government,” Carranza said.

“Yung kay Mayor Halili, that was before matanggal 'yung kaniyang authority sa Napolcom (National Police Commission). Noong pagkapanalo niya, meron na siyang Mayor's Anti-Crime Group, so yung pinapakitang kasama sa walk of shame, hindi mga pulis yun. It’s the Mayor's Anti-Crime Group. Sa lahat ng anti-crime operations, involved itong anti-crime group. During the flag-raising, part ng participants meron po tayong contingent ng pulis parang usual fla- raising namin dito but the one securing the mayor is the mayor's anti-crime group,” he added.

(When Mayor Halili won, he had his Mayor's Anti-Crime Group, so those present during the walk of shame, they are not policemen. It's the Mayor's Anti-Crime Group. They are involved in all anti-crime operations. During the flag-raising part, we have our own contingent but the ones securing the mayor is the Mayor's Anti-Crime Group.)

Carranza said they asked for around five to eight guns used by Halili’s security to be turned over for investigation. 

“As of Friday, ang report ng provincial director natin, meron nang na-turnover na mga baril and we meant to cross-match all the recovered shells from .45 caliber and .9mm pistol,” Carranza said.

(As of Friday, the provincial director reported there are some guns turned over and we are meant to cross-match all the recovered shells from .45 caliber and .9mm pistol.)

According to PNP Supervisory Office on Security and Investigation Agencies (PNP-SOSIA) Assistant Chief Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, in incidents where private security or bodyguards are employed, only the private detective agency is investigated for lack of training and not the security escort or individual. 

“As a regulatory body, ang ginagawa ng SOSIA is we take note of the incident and then depending on the result of the investigation of the local police, in some cases we tag and hold the renewal of licenses, so during the registration of their licenses that we come in, hanggang don lang ang function ng SOSIA,” Banac said. 

A VIP can hire up to four bodyguards from private detective agencies while a maximum of two police escorts are assigned by the PNP-PSPG depending on the result of the threat assessment.

SOSIA said it is possible that the VIPs get additional escorts who they know and trust even if they lack proper training. 

And because of limitations in getting a private security and police escorts, some VIPs opt to get their own escort or bodyguard even if they lack the training and are ill-equipped to protect them.

Halili, who became controversial for his "walk of shame" parade of alleged drug dealers, was one of three local government officials killed this past week. 

Police investigators said they have already identified 3 persons of interest in Halili's killing, of whom 2 are allegedly linked to the narcotics trade.

Two other officials killed this week were Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija and Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires, Cavite.