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I was a police reporter in the early 1970s, and I know for a fact that the evil practice of “police rubout” and/or “salvaging” (summary execution) was then resorted to by heartless policemen.

I thought this heinous police operation had already been stopped, but recent reports indicate that it is still being done. And if the news reports are accurate, it might have even turned worst.

Recent developments, though, show there’s a ray of hope for the elimination of this devilish method. This hope arises from the strong words of President Aquino on the matter.

The President has taken notice of the recent killing in Laguna of two suspected members of the notorious Ozamiz Gang who were identified as Ricky Cadavero and Wilfredo Panogalinga. News photos showed that they were arrested by policemen, but a few days after, it was reported that they were gunned down by cops in a shootout.

In his recent state-of-the-nation address, Aquino remarked, “There are still incidents that sully our police force’s honor.” He said, “We know of what happened to the members of the Ozamiz Gang – Cadavero and Panogalina – who were caught only to be killed.”

Just like the Atimonan incident, Aquino said, “We will ensure that those at fault will be held accountable, regardless of their rank. To whoever masterminded all of this, prepare yourselves; I am close to learning who you are.”

Subsequent reports stated that a police colonel and 13 other policemen are in hot water in connection with the killing of the two suspects. Investigation showed that the two members of the robbery gang might have been deliberately killed.

Director-General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has approved a pre-charge evaluation for the filing of administrative case against the policemen involved in the shooting death of Cadavero and Panogalinga.

Asked by reporters if Cadavero and Panogalinga were intentionally killed by the police escorts, Purisima replied, “It appears that way. The investigation showed there was no firefight in the incident.”

This conflicted with initial reports that the police escorts were forced to shoot Cadavero and Panogalinga when they tried to grab their guns. This happened, the escorts said, when motorcycle-riding men attempted to rescue the suspects by firing at one of the two vehicles in which the policemen were riding.

Facing administrative charges were Superintendent Danilo Mendoza, head of the Calabarzon regional police-Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG); Senior Inspector Manuel Magat, Senior Inspector Fernando Cardona; and Inspector Efren Oco.

Also facing administrative charges were Senior Police Officers 1 Joseph Ortega and Jayson Semacas; Police Officers 3 Sherwin Bulan, Ramil Gonzales, Marvin Mejia and Eduardo Cruz, all of RSOG; Police Officers 2 Conrado Bautista, Exiel Reyes, Kristofferson Reyes, and Police Officer 1 Ryan Rey Gado, all of the regional Public Safety Battalion. They were the escorts of the two suspects when they were killed.

The conclusion that there was no firefight is credible. The claim that the two men, who were both unarmed and handcuffed, attempted to grab the guns of the escorts is baloney. Any sane man would not dare fight 14 armed policemen.

Without a firefight, it is not far-fetched to conclude that the two suspects were killed in cold blood.
What could be the motive for the killing of Cadavero and Panogalinga? Was there someone who directed the policemen to liquidate the two men?

Answers to these questions are mere speculations, but similar “salvaging” cases in the past like the Atimonan rubout could shed light on the matter.

There was a past case in which a police official was tagged as the brains of a syndicate. He paid big sums for the liquidation of the arrested suspects to silence them permanently. He feared that as long as the arrested syndicate members were alive, there was always a chance that they would confess and expose him.

This angle should be looked into by the investigators in the case of the Ozamiz Gang suspects. From the looks of it, the killing of Cadavero and Panogalinga may just be the tip of the iceberg.