High alert or high insecurity? Police swarm Tuguegarao as activists prepare for Malayao burial

By Tonyo Cruz

TUGUEGARAO CITY–Hundreds of cops and Special Action Force personnel swarmed parts of Tuguegarao City on Wednesday as activists from across Region II started to gather for the burial of slain activist Randy Felix Malayao.

The remains of Malayao — an NDFP peace consultant, regional chair of Bayan Muna and national vice president of the Makabayan coalition — will be buried Thursday at the town cemetery of his native San Pablo, Isabela.

San Pablo is less than 30 minutes away from this regional center.

If the police and military were really innocent in Malayao’s murder, it didn’t look or feel that way.

The excessive police presence in Tuguegarao Wednesday betrays a high sense of insecurity and maybe even guilt.

Initial reports also said police and soldiers blocked several busloads of protesters from several Cagayan towns, as droves sought to join the funeral march for Malayao.

Dozens of police and SAF bearing high-powered weapons were deployed outside and inside the courtyard of the Tuguegarao Cathedral where the activists gathered.

A stone’s throw away, at the former city jail, about 50 police in full anti-riot gear could be seen practicing their moves.

Cops and intelligence officers, Some in plainclothes, followed the rallyists as they marched through downtown Tuguegarao. They brazenly took photos of the activists.

The protesters carried white placards made of rice sacks bearing the words “Hustisya kay Randy Malayao!” and “Stop the killings! Stop the crackdown!”

In a joint statement distributed during the march, Cagayan Valley groups BAYAN and DANGGAYAN accused the notorious Philippine Army 5th Infantry Division in the murder of Malayao.

They said elements of the 5th ID harassed the quick reaction team dispatched by human rights watchdogs at the PNP station in Aritao, the town where Malayao was shot dead while sleeping in a bus en route to Isabela.

Prior to Malayao’s murder, the 5th ID had identified Malayao and other activist leaders as enemies of the state.

The PNP Regional Office 2 recently released CCTV video showing Malayao boarding the bus in Quezon City for his trip back home.

Another video showed two persons mulling around the bus at the stop in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.

One of the two persons was later seen boarding the bus while still at the stop. Gunshots could be heard in the video.

Instead of ordering a manhunt and trying to identify the suspects, PNP’s PRO2 has accused the Malayao family of “obstruction of justice” for demanding the return of all of Malayao’s personal belongings seized by the police after the incident.

Without naming names of the suspects, PNP PRO2
spokesman Superintendent Chevalier Iriangan immediately said that “Malayao’s comrades” are the suspects in his killings.

He said that the family should give the PNP all of Malayao’s phones, laptop and iPad.

Malayao had long been tagged by the PNP and the military as a Red leader in Cagayan Valley, culminating in his 2008 abduction in Cainta, Rizal in Manila.

Five days later, the police and military surfaced him in Tuguegarao, detained him and charged him in connection with the death of a former governor.

Malayao successfully defended himself from all the trumped-up cases leveled against him, which led to his freedom.

The Malayao family has rejected police claims that their youngest brother was a corrupt activist who ran away with the movement’s money.

The PNP claimed it could be a motive for Reds to kill him.

Malayao’s elder sister Perla has told media that their family is calling for an impartial and credible investigation. #