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Catanduanes cop recants claim of PNP-sponsored killings

MANILA, Philippines – A Catanduanes cop recanted his affidavit where he claimed that his superiors ordered the killings of drug suspects.

According to Senate public order committee chairman Panfilo Lacson, Police Officer 1 Vincent Tacorda withdrew his affidavit on June 29, more than a month after he signed it on May 10.

Lacson read a portion of Tacorda's letter dated July 3 during the second Senate hearing on the killings of minors.

"I have done some serious soul-searching and I have come to realize that I love my organization. I continue to hold it and its ranks in the highest respect despite some sad experiences I went through, which changed my heart. I had expounded it in an affidavit of recantation on 29 June 2017," Lacson read on Monday, October 2.

Tacorda resigned in April, saying he could no longer take the illegal activities in the police force. He claimed his superiors ordered him to kill a drug suspect because the Catanduanes police needed to step up their game in the campaign against illegal drugs.

In an affidavit dated May 10 which was presented by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV during the hearing, Tacorda said he, along with another cop, was instructed by their provincial director to deliver an "accomplishment of 5-10 deaths of drug personalities," or else they would be relieved from their posts.

Tacorda also claimed then that he served as the "shooter" in operations. He said he was given an P800-budget for food and lodging, a picture of the target, and a folder with "PUSHER AKO, HUWAG TULARAN...Bicol vigilante" written on it.

Upon locating the target, Tacorda said he tried to fire his gun but it "got jammed."

"Hence, I just threw the folder [at] him and rushed back to the waiting motorcycle and left the scene. I was then wearing a helmet and a jacket so that nobody [could] recognize me," Tacorda said.

He also earlier claimed he has voice and text recordings of his conversations with his superiors.

Lacson said they invited Tacorda to the Senate hearing but he refused to attend. The senator then instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to produce Tacorda in the next hearing.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Tacorda also withdrew his resignation letter.

"Right after lumabas 'yung exposé, nag-submit siya ng resignation letter, but afterwards winithdraw niya dahil ayaw niya mag-resign," Dela Rosa said. (Right after the exposé was released, he submitted a resignation letter but afterwards, he withdrew it because he said he did not want to resign.)

Dela Rosa also said Tacorda is facing murder charges for the death of Catanduanes-based newspaper publisher Larry Sy Que. The filing of the complaint happened on May 2, a week before Tacorda's affidavit.

Despite Tacorda's recantation, Trillanes said the information from the cop remains valuable. He added that the cop might have been forced to change his tune.

He also presented a video of Tacorda taken in May detailing the orders of his superiors.

"'Yung information may value, 'yung truth may value 'yun. Tignan natin ang katotohanan. Madaling pilipitin ang testigo kasi nasa kanila ang kapangyarihan pero no'ng sinabi niya ito, hindi pa siya naiipit, sinabi niya ang katotohanan," Trillanes said.

(The information has value, the truth has value. Let's look at the truth. It's easy for them to pressure a witness because they're powerful but when he disclosed the information, he was not yet pressured, and he said the truth.)

The next hearing is set for October 10. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email