PNP: Slain Calbayog mayor not target of police operation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2021 09:21 AM

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MANILA - The Philippine National Police on Thursday said slain Calbayog Mayor Ronald Aquino was not the target of a police operation on Monday, saying the cops who shot him were in Calbayog City for a separate operation.

"They were there to conduct Red Teaming inspection on all police stations, incognito in fact, because they are actually monitoring performance of our police officers against illegal drugs, terrorism and some anti-crime operations," PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said in an ANC interview. 

He added that police did not know if Aquino was involved in the illicit drug trade.

"It didn't come out in any of the reports. We are not even aware whether the mayor was involved indeed in drug trade and all that. No, not at all," he said.

Usana also clarified that the statement of PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas saying the incident was a shootout was initial.

"This is simply an initial report from the police that came to the area. Accordingly, it was a shootout. In fact, there were police officers who died from the other vehicle," he said.

The police have formed a special investigation task group to probe the incident that left 6 people dead, including Aquino. 

The other fatalities were identified as Aquino's close-in security detail Police Senior Sgt. Rodio Sario; his driver Dennis Abayon; Police Capt. Joselito Tabada; Police Senior Sgt. Romeo Laoyon; and Clint John Paul Yauder, a civilian.

Sinas had said that Aquino's group was the first to fire at police officers that were tailing their vehicle.

"So, according to them, without apparent reason, binaril 'yong sasakyan nila. So, napilitan sila ngayon mag-responde," he said.

(... their car was shot. So, they were forced to respond.)

Aquino's political ally, Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, maintained the mayor was ambushed. He said the police were wearing balaclavas and had high-powered firearms.

Aquino is the 25th local executive killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.