Philippine governor stripped of power over police

MANILA- The National Police Commission (Napolcom) has removed the authority of Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel Luis Villafuerte over the local police in his province for actions "inimical to national security."

In a resolution dated June 9, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer on Thursday, the Napolcom cited Villafuerte's refusal to cooperate with the police in the investigation of the killing of four small-scale miners in Caramoan town last March.

The miners were reportedly shot dead by members of Sagip Kalikasan Task Force (SKTF), a group formed by the governor's father, former Gov. Luis Raymond Villafuerte.

It also noted the 23-year-old governor's failure to secure the licenses for the firearms owned by the provincial government, which the police said may have been used in the killing of the miners. The Inquirer tried but failed to reach the governor for his comment on Thursday.

The order was signed by Napolcom chair and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, its vice chair and executive officer Eduardo Escueta, commissioners Luisito Palmera, Alexander Urro and Constancia de Guzman, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima.

"Clearly, it is incumbent upon this commission to withdraw its deputation of (Villafuerte) for his deliberate and blatant commission of acts inimical to national security or which negate the effectiveness of the peace and order campaign of the government," the resolution read in part.

The Napolcom order means Villafuerte has lost administrative authority and control of the local police in Camarines Sur.

In its resolution, the Napolcom cited the report and recommendation submitted by the regional offices of the commission and the Department of the Interior and Local Government regarding Villafuerte's supposed failure to act on the death of four small-scale miners who were gunned down by armed men believed to be members of SKTF.

Since its creation in September 2004, the commission said several complaints had been filed against SKTF personnel, who also belong to the Civil Security Unit of the provincial government, in Naga City and in the towns of Minalabac, Caramoan, Sagnay and San Jose.

Illegal checkpoints

The group was established to "effectively [monitor] the quarrying activities within the province of Camarines Sur and for efficient collection of fees and taxes… through the establishments of checkpoints in strategic locations." However, the PNP Directorate for Operations ordered the Bicol regional police office to check on reports about the illegal checkpoints being set up by SKTF members.

On March 22, four miners were killed by SKTF members in Barangay (village) Gata, Caramoan town, which led to the filing of criminal charges against them.

In its investigation of the incident, the local police found out that the provincial capitol "has been blatantly remiss in its duty to renew and update the licenses" for the 41 firearms it owned.

Acting on this information, Senior Supt. Arnold Albis, Camarines Sur police chief, asked Villafuerte to have the unlicensed guns turned over to the police for safekeeping.

On the other hand, the Bicol regional police office "concluded that the unlicensed firearms could have been used" in the killing "considering that firearms of the provincial government are issued to the members of the SKTF."

Governor's response

Albis then sought the young governor's assistance on the police investigation into the shooting incident, but Villafuerte told Albis in a letter dated April 1 that SKTF members "have nothing to do or have no involvement" in the incident.

The Camarines Sur provincial board, in a resolution, said the Napolcom decision was both unfair and without basis.

Board Member Warren Señar said the PNP should be fully blamed if there would henceforth be a rise of criminality in the province.

Vice Gov. Fortunato Peña told the Inquirer that the Napolcom resolution was passed without due process even as they support the governor's move to appeal for reconsideration.