Iloilo Gov. has ‘hired guns’ — Gonzalez

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The saga of the police assault on the Iloilo provincial capitol took on new twists on Tuesday as Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez claimed Gov. Niel Tupas had imported graduates of the Philippine Military Academy for a planned armed defiance of his dismissal orders.

In two separate letters to Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Philippine Air Force chief, Lt. Gen. Jose Reyes, Gonzalez questioned the use of C-130 aircraft in ferrying several PMA graduates “who were classmates of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo Mayor Raul Tupas, son of the governor.

“Why was this special flight was undertaken I beg some answers?” Gonzalez asked in his letter.

His office released copies of the letters a day after Sen. Franklin Drilon, his political foe, demanded the resignation of all government officials and police officers involved in the Iloilo provincial capitol assault.

Hands off

Also on Tuesday Malacañang rejected the challenge of Govs. Luis “Chavit” Singson of Ilocos Sur and Ben Ebardone of Eastern Samar to order a temporary moratorium on the suspension and dismissal of local government executives.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Malacañang has no control over the Office of the Ombudsman, which is a constitutional body.

Malacañang was also mum about calls for the resignation of police officers and Ombudsman, DILG and DOJ officials involved in the Iloilo provincial capitol raid. Governors and local chief executives in Panay, including some of Mrs. Ar­royo’s key supporters, have demanded the relief or dismissal of officials who authorized the assault.

Singson and Evardone issued the call on Monday, citing the need to defuse political tension during the campaign season.

However, Ermita said government lawyers would try to review the recommendations presented by Ebardone, head of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.

He said Malacañang is studying ways how to accommodate concerns of local officials in the implementation of the Election Code.

All-star cast

Gonzalez’s letter said he received reliable information that Col. Billy Bibit, former leader of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM), was in the provincial capitol at the height of the incident.

Gonzalez claimed Bibit was with Palmita Patricio, secretary of former Sen. Gregorio Hona­san, some 100 identified members of the Guardians, and militants from Bayan Panay.

He said a certain Captain Balasico of the PAF with 30-armed persons with MP5 submachine guns were positioned inside secret room.

Apparently to explain why the 200 police officers who assaulted the capitol found no armed group, Gonzalez said the secret room is a pantry that leads to a secret elevator that allowed Tupas’ armed supporters to escape.

He also said that provincial jail guards carried guns despite the Commission on Elections ban on the carrying of weapons.

Gonzalez claimed Provincial Warden Col. Juan Mabugat “was seen wearing a bullet proof vest [and carrying a] caliber 5.56 baby armalite with 90 rounds of ammunition.”

He said the provincial warden released jail inmates to beef up Tupas’ armed force. He said the inmates were brought into the provincial capitol in the guise of attending court hearings.

He urged Puno and Reyes to conduct a probe into his allegations. Gonzalez also gave Commission on Human Rights Chairman Purificacion Quisumbing a copy of the letter. Quisumbing had earlier slammed police for the “overkill” that saw policemen pointing their guns at unarmed civilians and manhandling Tupas’ children.