By Jennifer P. Rendon
Did the Iloilo City Police Office-City Drug Enforcement Unit (ICPO-CDEU) follow the PNP Operational Procedures during the conduct of the anti-illegal drug operations that claimed the life of Staff Sergeant Michael Malan?
Was there a necessity to deploy members of the ICPO’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team to the area?
Was there an urgency to directly confront the armed suspect who was holed up in a room?
These are some of the questions that the ICPO leadership might need to answer relative to the Oct. 29 drug buy-bust operation at Barangay Concepcion, City Proper, Iloilo City.
In a memorandum sent by the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD), the ICPO, through its director Colonel Joeresty Coronica, is “directed to conduct thorough investigation on the aforesaid incident and determine the possible operational lapses committed by the operating team, that would warrant the filing of an administrative case against them to include their immediate superior officer, under the Doctrine of Command Responsibility.”
ICPO is also directed to submit their investigation and evaluation reports no later than Nov. 17, 2023.
It was gathered that the order emanated from the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management using a clipping from a national daily.
Coronica has assured that they will comply with the directive as soon as possible.
“The way I understand it, the memorandum would like to know the transition from one operating unit to another,” he said.
In the said case, it was from the ICPO-CDEU to the SWAT team.
When asked if the protocol for the deployment of SWAT personnel was followed, he said there’s no specific instance when a SWAT team should be deployed.
“What happened was it was a judgment call of the commander. I have given a green light for the deployment of the SWAT team based on the recommendation of the ground commander,” he said
At that time, the ground commander was Lieutenant Colonel Antonio P Benitez Jr., the ICPO-CDEU chief.
As to allegations that the bullets that hit Malan might not have come from the firearm recovered from suspect Glenn Iturriaga, Coronica said that the medico-legal report could answer that.
“Dapat may court order for the result to be made public. But that would be known sa hearing because that would form part of the evidences that we will present against the suspect,” Coronica said.
The city police chief also justified the necessity of barging into the room where the suspects were hiding despite that they were cornered.
Coronica said they were waiting for some equipment to be deployed into the room but had to devise a plan after Iturriaga fired sporadic shots despite his earlier manifestation to surrender.
Coronica said that what happened was unfortunate and that they would see to it that justice would be served to the suspects.
The ICPO has filed a string of charges against Iturriaga including murder, frustrated murder, violation of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act), and RA 9516 or possession of explosives.
Aside from the caliber .9mm pistol, an explosive was also found in the crime scene, Coronica said.
Iturriaga would also be facing charges for violation of Sections 5, 11, 12 and 15 of RA 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).
Iturriaga’s companion, Ivan Palmejar, and live-in partner, Katrina Espinosa, would also be facing charges.
Palmejar and Espinosa are facing charges for violation of Section 26 in relation to Section 5, Section 12, and 15 of RA 9165.
Palmejar was also slapped with a case for violation of Section 11 of RA 9165.