In his appearance before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for a question-and-answer hour today, May 31, Police Chief Inspector Jose Jeffrey Mendiola, Chief, Investigation and Detective Management Branch of Palawan – Provincial Police Office, refused to issue an official statement on whether or not it is still safe to go to Bataraza.
“I’m not the right person. Ang pwede lang magsabi n’yan ‘yung chief of police (COP) ng Bataraza,” Mendiola explained.
Board Member Winston Arzaga, Acting Presiding Officer, said he was worried and apprehensive with the statement of Mendiola, mainly because that would mean that as far as the Provincial PNP is concerned safety of anybody going to Bataraza is presently not guaranteed.
“Safe po, kaya lang po iba-iba po kasi ang interpretation ng bawat isang pulis… basta para sa akin safe, still safe,” Mendiola stressed.
In last Tuesday’s session, Board Member Eduardo Modesto Rodriguez requested the appearance of Police Senior Superintendent Benjamin Acorda Jr. before the Sanggunian to update the Provincial Board on the progress of investigation about the series of killings in Bataraza town. The Provincial Director sent Mendiola as his representative because Police Director General Ricardo Marquez, the PNP Chief, is in the province today for an exit conference.
When Mendiola was asked by the Board on the progress of investigation on the killings, the police officer said that there were already cases filed. He, however, failed to disclosed how many of the 12 recorded shooting incidents were covered and identify which particular cases were addressed.
It can be recalled that there are 19 recorded victims from the killing incidents. Mendiola said the PNP validated four of the recorded incidents as election-related.
Mendiola asked for ample time to submit before the Board a spot and progress report, adding that he did not bring any documents. “Hindi ko rin po alam na…basta inutusan lang po ako dito na mag-represent. Hindi po ako napadalhan ng summons kung anu-ano dadalhin documents,” he explained.
Meanwhile, BM Rodriguez questioned Mendiola’s statement that the situation in Bataraza is “under control” by Bataraza MPS. “Pwede po bang maano natin ang term na ‘under control’? Hindi kapani-paniwala, may namamatay pa din sa Bataraza,” Rodriguez said, though he emphasized that it is his personal opinion.
Palawan PPO also cannot give a time-frame on when all these cases will be solved in terms of PNP’s “pillar of justice.” On the part of PNP, a case is considered closed if a case has already been filed.
He admitted that all the suspects are still at large. “Karamihan kasi walang witness, we are just relying on forensic evidence,” Mendiola stressed out.
Board Member Marivic Roxas, who represents Bataraza, appealed to the PNP to do all possible measures to restore peace and order in their locality.
“Very frustrated na po kami sa bayan ng Bataraza, hindi na po talaga safe. Hindi na s’ya kagaya ng dati.”
Mendiola appeared before SP for Q & A with SPO2 Florentin Baldemosa and PO3 Floredo Bacladan, both investigators under his branch.