Three separate shooting incidents involving unidentified assailants occurred in southern Palawan last week, underscoring a dip in the local peace and order situation and prompting the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership to sack the province’s top police official P/Col. Dionisio B. Bartolome.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) regional headquarters in MIMAROPA, in General Order No. 236 issued on Saturday, “terminated” Bartolome’s post as provincial director of Palawan provincial police office as an “immediate solution” to the “series of shooting incidents” that happened under Bartolome’s area of responsibility.
Bartolome was temporarily replaced by P/Col. Nicolas D. Torre III, in addition to his duties and responsibilities who was also serving as Deputy Regional Director for Operations, based on special order No. 494 effective Saturday, November 21.
Bartolome was also relegated as an ad hoc member from his command post in Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Magcamit, a local task force created for the criminal investigation on the killing of private lawyer Eric Jay A. Magcamit, 35, who was gunned down in the village of Malinao in Narra, Palawan early morning of November 17.
Late Friday (November 20), Rizal town’s coordinator of municipal planning and development office, Engr. Gregorio Baluyut, 56, ended up dead after he was shot multiple times, around 10:30 in the evening, while inside his residence by an unidentified gunman. Baluyut was having a drinking session when his assailant managed to get inside the victim’s property in Purok Mahogany in the village of Punta Baja in southern Palawan town of Rizal using a ladder.
Baluyut was rushed to Rizal District Hospital where he was declared in “critical condition” by the attending physician, his daughter, Dr. Pennsylvania Baluyut. Engr. Baluyut died as he was being transferred to a hospital in Puerto Princesa City.
The initial probe of the Palawan PPO linked Baluyut’s killing to the “liquidation squad” of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province.
P/Lt. Col. June Rhian, spokesperson of Palawan PPO, in a separate interview, said that Baluyut was believed to be one of the “helpful partner(s) of the police and the military” in the community outreach projects in Rizal town.
“May lumalabas kasing impormasyon na itong victim kapag may mga trabaho o kaya may mga tinatawag nating mga civil military operation o community outreach program, lumalabas na itong victim, si engineer ay matulungin ito. Minsan ay doon kumakain sa bahay nila ang mga PNP o ang mga armed forces. Baka napagdududahan siya na nagbibigay ng impormasyon,” Rhian said.
Rhian however clarified that the NPA-angle is only one of the leads being pursued as the investigation continues, reiterating that it is still inconclusive.
Joel Flores, a sales representative of Asia Brewery Inc., was also shot by two unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen on the afternoon of Friday (around 2:00 p.m., November 20) while collecting payments from retail stores along Macadam Highway in the village of Rio Tuba in Bataraza, Palawan.
Flores sustained gunshot wounds on his face and abdomen but is now in a stable condition after he was brought to Rio Tuba Nickel Foundation Inc. Hospital.
The local authorities said they have identified “the possible association of two persons of interest in the case”, based on the retrieved security camera footage within the area, but clarified that the police officers were yet to establish the motive behind the shooting.
Rhian also said that the Palawan PPO is now studying the situation in southern Palawan due to the series of shooting incidents this month. The move is to determine how to eliminate the challenge that the peace and order situation in the area is struggling against.
“Isa yan sa pinag-usapan at pag uusapan pa uli kasama ang lahat ng mga pinatawag na opisyal ng PNP, at maging ang mobile forces para mapag-aralang mabuti ang mabisang solusyon,” Rhian added.
(with reports from Ruth Rodriguez, Arphil Ballarta, and Celeste Anna Formoso)