SWAT in Iloilo City is shameful, witless, arrogant, ‘tanga”

It was almost like an action movie scene: heavily-armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team troopers, complete with armor vests and Kevlar helmets, make their way up the stairs of a building, their armalite rifles in ready-to-fire positions, in search of armed criminals. The lead SWAT member takes a peek, as if expecting a volley of fire to cut him down. Seeing nobody, he pushes forward, followed by other troopers. 

But the succeeding scenes captured on CCTV take an unexpected turn. No, there was no gunfire from inside the building. No grenade or any device capable of killing or maiming. The premises was the radio station dyOK Aksyon Radyo Iloilo, not a shabu laboratory or a drug den guarded by killers. Inside were unarmed radio station personnel — a senior reporter/anchorman, three news writers, technicians and security guards.

To the shock and dismay of Ilonggos who have watched this series of CCTV video clips, the media personnel, at gunpoint, were ordered to remove their shirts. The security guard who had even opened the door for the SWAT was made to crawl on the floor, in the process getting kicked in the head and body before he was handcuffed. Anchorman Salvador “Jun” Capulot explained to the SWAT team they weren’t the bad guys. “Taga Aksyon Radyo kami,” he was quoted as saying. “Ti ano karon? SWAT man kami! Suspek kamo tanan!” came the arrogant reply.

All the male personnel were then herded downstairs before being hauled to the Mandurriao police station. Only two female news writers were spared the indignity of removing their clothes, and that’s because they refused.

This ugly incident made it to national television two nights in a row. Malacanang has promised to investigate. But the PNP city director, Senior Supt. Ruperto Floro, seemed unwilling to concede that the actions of the SWAT were illegal, improper, brutal and stupid. Floro said the order for the “suspects” to strip is part of the rules of engagement, and that everybody had to be considered a suspect because of a crime that had taken place shortly beforehand.

With that kind of justification, I would say that stupidity has become an epidemic in the Philippine National Police. First, the Aksyon Radyo Iloilo premises wasn’t a scene of a crime. The crime had taken place at a restaurant in the Smallville complex where a rumble had taken place. Between the crime scene and the Carlos Uy building was a distance of about 70 meters. It’s just that the young boys who were involved in the rumble sought refuge at the lobby of the third floor, with one of them wounded.

The irony is that it was Capulot who called up the police to inform them these distressed youths were there. In a sudden twist, Capulot and his colleagues found themselves considered as “suspects”. Even that were so, the treatment they got from the SWAT is simply despicable. Their Miranda rights were not read to them. The order for them to strip isn’t found in any manual or rules of engagement.

Now we can see why our PNP is losing the battle against criminality. We have policemen who don’t know the rules of engagement. They behaved arrogantly. They violated the human rights of the security guard and the media personnel. They are an embarrassment to the entire PNP. Instead of being the protectors of the people, they became the oppressors of the people.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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