PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar yesterday ordered the relief of Lt. Col. Neil Montaño, the chief of police of Calbayog City, Samar due to the killing of Mayor Ronald Aquino last week.
Eleazar said the relief of Montaño was also in relation to the “irresponsible conduct” of his intelligence officer, Lt. Fernando Calabria Jr., who was relieved by Eleazar last Saturday for asking the city’s court to provide him a list of lawyers representing people identified with the communist movement.
Eleazar said the pressure of crafting a comprehensive report on insurgency situation in the city “apparently took a toll on him (Calabria) and eventually prompted him to commit a serious breach of policy.
“These two unfortunate incidents are currently under investigation and Lt. Col Montaño was ordered relieved for command responsibility,” said Eleazar, who was designated as PNP-OIC last Thursday by PNP chief Debold Sinas, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Aside from Aquino, five others were also killed in the firefight that the mayor’s relatives have dubbed as an ambush.
Eleazar said nine other policemen of the Calbayog City police were also relieved and were re-assigned with the Samar provincial police “to undergo refresher seminar.”
He said Lt. Col. Rodolfo Albotra has been designated as the new chief of police of Calbayog City while Maj. Ruel Burlat was named the new intelligence officer of the police station, replacing Calabria.
Eleazar said the officers have been ordered “to refrain from making any comment on the case of Mayor Aquino, and wait instead for the final result of the investigation.”
The PNP Special Investigation Task Force Aquino and the PNP Internal Affairs Service and the NBI are looking into the Aquino case.
The PNP said the mayor’s side initiated the firefight when his escorts opened fire at men aboard two vehicles tailing the mayor’s van Monday last week. The men turned out to be members of the PNP Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit and PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group.
The son of the mayor, Mark Aquino, said his father and his escorts were ambushed by the policemen. He claimed the policemen, after the firefight, made sure his father was dead by shooting him again.
Eleazar said the relief and designation of the officers and men were recommended by Eastern Visayas Regional Police office chief Brig. Gen. Ronaldo De Jesus.
Eleazar also announced the designation of Maj. Marino Estoño as the new commander of the Calbayog-City based 1st Samar Provincial Mobile Force Company.
“Maj. Estoño has just finished his Commando Course and we expect that his deployment in Calbayog City will calm the tension and address security apprehensions of the local residents as a result of the incident involving Mayor Aquino,” said Eleazar.
Eleazar said the PNP, on the recommendation of De Jesus, is “conducting the needs assessment for the Calbayog CPS (city police station) to improve its investigation, intelligence and operational capabilities.”