Police lapses checked in Navarro’s death: Vinluan axed after ambush
CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Police Office director Colonel Gemma Vinluan has been relieved from her post pending investigation on whether police committed security lapses during the fatal ambush of Clarin, Misamis Occidental Mayor David Navarro Friday last week.
Navarro was then being transported to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office in the company of policemen when he was shot dead by a group of at least 10 unidentified persons in broad daylight on M. Velez Street.
Police Regional Office-7 director Brigadier General Valeriano de Leon revealed to reporters yesterday that he has ordered Vinluan’s relief and placed her under “floating status” while the National Bureau of Investigation digs deeper into the ambush.
De Leon clarified, though, that the relief is administrative in nature and is only meant to make Vinluan accessible for investigation purposes.
As a matter of procedure, Vinluan will be assigned at the Regional Police Holding and Administrative Unit.
“I issued the administrative relief (order) of Colonel Vinluan to make her available for the investigation being conducted,” de Leon said.
“Kapag matapos na ito at titingnan natin yung recommendation if there are any lapses on her part, eh baka tuluyang malipat. Kung wala naman, ibabalik naman (After the investigation, we will check the recommendation, and if there were lapses on her part, she may be reassigned. Otherwise, she will be back to her post as CCPO director),” he added.
Sought for comment, Vinluan said she expected the order to come, but reiterating that she was open for any investigation.
“That is expected kasi even sa previous interviews sa akin, sinabi ko na rin na the Cebu City police is open for investigation, and to find out if we had lapses during the incident,” she wrote in a text message to reporters.
In the meantime, Vinluan will be replaced by Colonel Geovanie Maines, deputy regional director for operations, who was first assigned as commander of the special investigation task group assigned to probe Navarro’s murder before it was transferred to NBI.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte earlier told the police to stop its investigation into the murder and to let the NBI handle the case “to ensure fairness.”
“The President’s instruction to turn over the investigation to the NBI is a welcome development. It will provide a perception of impartial investigation sparing us of suspicion of possible whitewash,” de Leon said.
The police’s task group already turned over all pertinent documents to the NBI on Tuesday.
Moreover, Navarro’s escorts during the ambush were given time to submit themselves for possible investigation as authorities are still validating their testimonies.
It was earlier reported that a police convoy from the Abellana Police Station was escorting Navarro that day to the prosecutor’s office where he was supposed to undergo inquest for charges of physical injuries and acts of lasciviousness.
Three police personnel were reportedly injured from the attack, one of them critically.
“Lapses are possible but not intentional,” said Vinluan in an earlier interview.
Last Sunday, the SITG reenacted the scenes before, during, and after the ambush to get a better grasp of what exactly transpired during the attack.
But the NBI-7, which now takes charge of the probe, will conduct a separate reenactment with those claiming to have witnessed the attack.
Police have said it was not discounting the possibility that the assailants were former associates of Navarro “from the underworld.”
Reports have tagged Navarro to the Parojinog and Alferez criminal groups that were involved in high-profile robberies and illegal drug trade.
Navarro’s name was also included twice in the list of alleged narco mayors read by President Duterte in 2016 and 2019.
Meanwhile, de Leon said police can now focus more on intensifying the campaign against all forms of criminality, particularly the illegal drug trade, after they were freed from the task of investigating Navarro’s death.
“It (transfer of probe to the NBI) will allow my organization and my personnel to focus on the more important functions of anti-criminality and protecting the communities from crime,” he said. JMD (FREEMAN)