MANILA (UPDATE) - Police served a search warrant against 2 peace consultants in the wee hours of the morning to prevent them from getting wind of the operation, Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas said Thursday.
Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), were killed last week in Angono, Rizal after allegedly resisting arrest when authorities served a search warrant at 3 a.m.
"Kaya nga madaling araw para hindi matiktikan at malaman. Kasi imagine mo, kung mag-search kami ng umaga, makita ng buong kabayanan nila, baka may mga spotter sila, baka may mga contact sila, so pag dating naming dun, nakatakas na sila," Sinas told ANC's Headstart when asked why it had to happen at that hour.
"Kaya ganun ang ginamit nating approach para hindi nila alam kalian at anong oras mag-conduct ng search," he said.
(It had to be in the early morning so that they won't know. Imagine, if we search at daytime, their whole town would know, they might have spotters, contacts, and when we arrive, they might have been able to escape. We had to use that approach so that they won't know when and what time we will do the search.)
Sinas said Magpantay and Topacio also had standing arrest warrants for murder.
The Communist Party of the Philippines has said Magpantay and Topacio, both 69 years old, had retired from active duty in the revolutionary movement due to infirmities of old age. Magpantay also had diabetes and severe arthritis.
Although they are elderly, Sinas said it's not impossible that the couple indeed fought back against the officers who were present during the search.
"Wala sa tanda ‘yan. Alam mo naman, may matatanda din ay pumapatay pa rin, mga leaders. Sila ay matagal na sa underground movement, so properly trained din ang mga ‘yan," he said.
"Hindi naman gagawa ang mga pulis natin ng labag sa batas unless their lives are threatened," he added, noting as well that Amanda Echanis, daughter of slain Anakpawis leader Randall Echanis, was recently arrested alive because she did not resist arrest.
(It's not based on age. You know, there are some elderly people who still kill, the leaders. They have long been part of the underground movement, so they are properly trained. Our police officers won't violate the law unless their lives are threatened.)
The Philippine National Police's Internal Affairs Service will investigate their deaths motu proprio, Sinas said.
"Iimbestigahan po iyan, at sinabi din namin openly na kung pakiramdam ng pamilya, may violations ang PNP, pwede silang magpa-imbestiga. Open po kami dun. Ang amin lang, wag tayo agad magbigay ng conclusion kasi sumusunod lang kami sa direktiba. Yun lang ang ginagawa namin," he said.
(That will be investigate, and we have said that if the family feels that there were violations by the PNP, they can have it investigated. We are open to that. But for us, let's not give conclusions right away because we are only following directives. That's all that we are doing.)
Rights group Karapatan also said it is looking into the whereabouts of the couple's helper. Sinas said according to the operating team, there was no helper on site, but he has ordered PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to locate the helper.
In a statement last Saturday, CPP called Magpantay and Topacio's deaths "cold-blooded murder" and said the "mafia-style execution" of the couple was reminiscent of the killings of NDFP consultants Echanis, Julius Giron and Randy Malayao.
Echanis was killed in his home in Quezon City in August, while Giron died in a reported shootout in Baguio City in March. Malayao was shot dead inside a bus last year.