LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Balay Mindanaw, a non-governmental organization working on peace and development, slammed as an “illegal search” the entry of members Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team into their office here Wednesday afternoon, November 13.
Kaloy Manlupig, chairman emeritus of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Incorporated (BMFI), said in a Facebook post, that without a search warrant to show, the police barged into the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center and searched the area as well as the belongings of their guests.
Aside from NGO personnel, the peace center had guests – “young participants from Marawi who had just completed a two-day training on trauma healing and forgiveness.”
The Balay Mindanaw Peace Center houses the BMFI office and is also its training center.
“(This is a) taste of Martial Law, uniformed armed SWAT policemen with K9 barged into the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center without asking permission, without even saying anything. They hurriedly left, again without saying a word,” Manlupig said.
“Law enforcement agencies must apply for a search warrant before conducting a search of the person or premise,” Manlupig added.
However, Cocpo spokesperson Major Ivan Viñas said that their team was ordered by the National Police Regional Office Operations Command to conduct a security clearing in preparation for the visit of Australian Embassy officials to Balay Mindanaw.
“Our police personnel from the K9 unit, not SWAT, went there to secure the place for arrival of the dignitary from the Australian Embassy,” Viñas said.
Viñas added that the vehicle used by the K9 unit was marked “SWAT” because they were from the same unit but there was no SWAT team during the inspection.
“There was a request for security paneling so the K9 unit went there,” Viñas added.
However, Manlupig said they were not expecting anybody from the Australian Embassy to visit them.
Here is Manlupig’s Facebook post:
“From whom/where did the PNP get the info that we were expecting Australian dignitaries. We were expecting none. Nobody, not even the Australian Embassy informed us. We had hosted many dignitaries in the past, and we are familiar with security protocol.
“Are the SWAT members who illegally searched our private property trained to do security paneling? If they are, we respectfully say that they did a lousy job. Why search only the lobby? What about the other areas of our center?
“Who ordered the SWAT Team to conduct paneling on Balay Mindanaw? Is Balay Mindanaw now considered a security threat? An enemy? Is there a deeper reason for the illegal search and trespassing?”
Viñas admitted that police team had lapses during the operation and they were investigating those involved.
“Our intentions are good as our police were just securing the place. We admit there have been lapses and we already issued a memorandum to the police involved clarify there actions,” Viñas added.
Viñas added that what took place was a miscommunication with no harm intended.
“Balay Mindanaw is our partner in peace building, this is just pure miscommunication,” Viñas said.
Regional police spokesperson Colonel Mardy Hortilloza said that they were investigating the incident at Balay Mindanaw. “We are referring this to our investigation team,” Hortilloza said. – Rappler.com