Senate hearing on Pamplona Massacre again reminds us how corrupt the Philippine National Police is

The recent Senate hearing on the Pamplona Massacre exposed how powerful the Teves political dynasty are in Negros Oriental, but it also demonstrated another fact: how crooked the Philippine National Police (PNP) is.

At the center of the Senate’s investigation was the Teves family’s alleged closeness with the local police in Negros Oriental. In the hotseat was Police Staff Sgt. Noel Alabata, accused of being the gunman during a 2021 assassination attempt against two businessmen in Dumaguete City.

Police Sgt. Noel Alabata is escorted by Senate Sergeant at Arms after he was cited in contempt during the Senate hearing on April 19. [Photo: Rene H. Dilan/Manila Times]
In March 2021, Jason Ong and Sandy Tinguha were manning their small food business when a would-be assassin shot at them. Thankfully, the gunman missed and the both business-owners were able to neutralize the assailant – sending him to the hospital.

The motive for the ambush was unknown at that time, but it came to light during the Senate hearings on the Pamplona Massacre that the attack was part of a string of underhanded tactics by Negros Oriental Congressman Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves – a member of the Teves clan.

According to Tinguha and Ong’s testimony to the Senate inquiry, Teves wanted their food business and ordered their slaying to get rid of them. Making matters even more atrocious, the lawmaker commissioned a police officer, no less, to orchestrate the assassination – thankfully, the gunman botched his attempt.

Congressman Arnie Teves, one of the suspected masterminds of the Pamplona Massacre. [Photo: @ArnieTevesOfficial Facebook page]
Congressman Arnie Teves, one of the suspected masterminds of the Pamplona Massacre. [Photo: @ArnieTevesOfficial Facebook page]
Alabata, under intense grilling by senators, vehemently denied being the failed assassin. He instead claimed to be the victim of a random attack, saying he was merely walking by Mang Atchan’s Spicy Tocino when he was attacked by its owners, Ong and Tinguha.

But what motive would the two businessmen have in assaulting a random person, especially since they were both busy with their food business? Adding to Alabata’s guilt is a CCTV footage of the incident which clearly affirms Ong and Tinguha’s version of the event.

The surgeon who treated Alabata’s wounds was also present in the hearing, and correctly identified the police sergeant as the assailant they treated that night. Police Colonel Ramoncelio Sawan, former Dumaguete City police chief, was also summoned by the Senate and confirmed it was Alabata who was detained in his police station for ten days after that attack on Mang Atchan’s.

However, instead of following protocol in holding Alabata after his failed slay attempt, Sawan instead allowed the suspect to sleep inside an air-conditioned office instead. Was the police chief giving special treatment to a fellow police officer, despite being suspected of committing a serious offence – attempted murder?

Denying his involvement, Alabata instead alleged that the CCTV footage which depicted him firing shots at Ong and Tinguha was doctored. Why would small-time entrepreneurs go into that much trouble as to randomly attack a police officer and then doctoring a CCTV footage?

None of the excuses given by Alabata computed, and he was eventually cited for contempt by Senator Ronald dela Rosa. He would be the second member of the PNP to be held in contempt by the Senate in as many days.

A second policeman, Staff Sergeant Renevic Rizaldo, was also detained by the Senate for refusing to give a straight answer about an assassination that occurred in Bayawan City – the bailiwick of the Teves dynasty.

Last November, Juwin Estiñoso – a candidate for councilor in Bayawan City – was shot dead by unknown assailants while manning his food cart business. He ran for councilor under the ticket of Governor Roel Degamo, directly competing against the Teves slate.

Estiñoso had death threats prior and had asked for help from the local police station. Testifying before the Senate hearing, the victim’s father – Wilfredo – said that his son was denied the chance to file a police report and was instead told the death threats were only in his imagination.

The victim’s widow, Marisol Estiñoso, testified that Rizaldo was the cop who refused her husband. But when interrogated at the Senate hearing the policeman said he could not remember if he wrote a police report about Juwin’s death threats or not.

Police Staff Sergeant Renevic Rizaldo
Police Staff Sergeant Renevic Rizaldo allegedly refused to file a police blotter documenting death threats received by a political opponent of the Teveses. (Photo: Rappler screenshot)

How could a police officer forget such a crucial detail about an assassination, especially one that pertained to a very basic aspect of their role – filing police reports? Senator Jinggoy Estrada, part of the panel conducting the hearing, gave a glaring response asking Rizaldo why the latter can remember his own marriage that happened 16 years ago, why can’t he recall something that happened only 6 months ago?

Senators discovered during the hearing that the police personnel was formerly assigned to Congressman Arnie Teves’ personal security detail. This closeness between the cop and the suspected mastermind of the Pamplona Massacre casted further doubts on Rizaldo’s honesty, and as a result he was cited in contempt by the Senate for refusing to give an answer.

The reputation of the PNP (or what’s left of it) definitely took a beating during the Senate hearings on the massacre and assassination of Governor Degamo. If the accusations against both cops proves true, then a cop acted as an actual hitman against private citizens and another reneged on his own duties which led to another civilian being killed – all under the orders of a political family.

This leaves no doubts that the police in Negros Oriental are compromised and are under the control of the Teves family.

Unsolved killings in Negros Oriental
A photo collage of victims of unsolved killings in Negros Oriental. Many of the names listed are allies of the slain Governor Roel Degamo.

These revelations follow another scandal beleaguering the police force – that their own cops covered-up a meth raid in October last year. Forty-seven cops linked to the fiasco were recently dismissed from service and placed under investigation, while many high-ranking police officials were forced to go on leave as a result.

Last year, Caloocan City police PO1 Jeffrey Perez was found guilty of planting evidence and torturing two teenaged drug war victims in 2017. The victims were among the thousands killed under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, a campaign that was always suspected of targeting destitute people rather than actual narcotics

It is easy to say that the police officers found guilty of the above crimes are merely a few bad apples in the police force. However, with the sheer number of police personnel being exposed for serious crimes it seems the tree itself is rotten. Truly, from its top brass to its rank-and-file forces, the rot at the PNP seems ubiquitous and ails the entire organization itself.

Only time will tell what other crimes we hear of next that involve our so-called, “men and women in uniform”.