Zambo City police chief sacked over killings

David Yu Santos
Local gov't offers P100,000 bounty for university president's killers

REPLACED. Zamboanga City mayor Celso Lobregat (in white Barong) speaks to relieved city police chief Edwin de Ocampo on Monday (April 2), a day after the killing of prominent businessman and university president Arturo Estaquio III. (Photo courtesy of Rolly Negra Carpio)

MANILA, Philippines – Amid a clamor for his resignation over the unabated shooting incidents in Zamboanga City for the past months and the killing of a university president last weekend, local police acting chief Sr Supt Edwin de Ocampo was relieved from his post on Monday, April 2.

De Ocampo was named officer-in-charge of the ZCPO in January 2009. He has been heavily criticized for failing to stop the series of shooting incidents in the city, particularly since December last year.

Replacing De Ocampo is Chief Supt Mario Yanga, Police Regional Office-9  assistant director. It will be his 5th time to be designated in the post.

It will be a huge personal sacrifice to accept this assignment, considering I am holding a number of other posts in the regional office,” Yanga told reporters.

Yanga will also lead Task Force Eustaquio, a special body composed of various police units created to resolve the killing of Arturo Estaquio III, president and chief executive officer of Universidad de Zamboanga (UZ), the biggest private university in Western Mindanao.

The local government has been placed under intense public pressure to replace De Ocampo.

But despite calls for the official’s ouster, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat preferred to wait for a formal order from Camp Crame to replace De Ocampo.

Reward money

The order came on March 29 and gave Lobregat 10 days to choose from a list of 5 officials recommended by the Philippine National Police leadership. But even before a decision could be made on his replacement, De Ocampo was relieved following Eustaquio’s killing.

 

During the change of command ceremonies at the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO), Lobregat however insisted that De Ocampo was not being sacked, saying he had merely reached the end of his term.

Lobregat announced that a P100,000 reward money has been set aside for any information that could lead to the arrest of Eustaquio’s killers.

At least 2 gunmen attacked Eustaquio a few meters outside his home in Barangay Sta. Maria on Sunday afternoon. Until his death, Eustaquio preferred to stay as a low-profile businessman. He was driving his motorcycle when he was gunned down.

Aside from a private hospital, Eustaquio’s family also owns UZ which has at least 8,000 students as of March 2012. The university’s main campus is in Zamboanga City and has branched out to other parts of the region such as in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay and soon in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.

Yanga said police operatives have been dispatched throughout the region to hunt for the killers, who were initially described by eyewitnesses. The city government is also reportedly allocating an undetermined amount to support the police manhunt.

Elbert Atilano, UZ professor and sports director, told Rappler that Eustaquio was aware of the threats to his life but “often downplayed them.”

Authorities earlier warned him about supposed threats by lawless groups to kidnap him. Eustaquio also reportedly received threats thorough text messages.

He received a text message last March 21 while in Cagayan de Oro City which stated the threat to liquidate him,” Atilano said. “Knowing his personality, he simply dismissed the threat and did not report this to the police.”

Reports said investigators are looking into a number of possible motives behind Eustaquio’s murder, including the businessman’s transactions for the expansion of his university.

Atilano said it was “business as usual” in UZ a day after the killing of their president but employees and students were in deep mourning.

The Estaquio family opened the university’s amphitheater for a few hours on Monday to hold a public viewing of the businessman’s remains. He was buried before lunch following Islamic tradition. – Rappler.com