Wednesday, July 18, 2012

12 police officers trigger ‘hazing’ inquiry

TWELVE police officers undergoing an anti-insurgency course in Sibonga, Cebu complained to the National Police Commission (Napolcom) 7 that three training instructors were maltreating them. Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr., director of the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Central Visayas, temporarily relieved the instructors from the Regional Special Training Unit (RSTU) 7 while they face an investigation. Sun.Star Cebu is withholding their names until they are formally charged or can comment on the development. Seven of the complainants, all policewomen, reported the incident to the Sibonga Police Station last July 13 at 8:45 p.m. They were being trained in the Camp Ceferino Genovia in Barangay Bahay. Bodily harm PO2 Marivic Cempron, PO2 Janell Juneo, PO2 Reymunda Moreno, PO2 Marcelina Bautista, PO2 Christina Pineda, PO1 Hyacinth Rose Renovlas, and PO1 Analyn Taer were accompanied by investigating officers from Napolcom 7 when they reported to the police station. PO2 Ederlino Bacusmo, chief investigator of Sibonga Police Station, told Sun.Star Cebu the policewomen accused the instructors, two of them female, of inflicting bodily harm on them. The first incident reportedly happened at 12:30 p.m. last July 6 while they were about to have lunch. A female instructor allegedly went livid after she noticed that the trainee who was tasked to prepare their food was missing. She ordered the trainees to perform “strenuous” exercises for half an hour under the noontime sun. The trainees were then asked to go inside their classroom, where the soles of their feet were allegedly hit several times by a bamboo stick. The report didn’t say how big the stick was. Bacusmo, in an interview, said there were about 170 police officers attending the Special Counter-Insurgency Operations Unit Training (SCOUT). Phone Two days later, a similar incident happened after one of the trainees was discovered using a cellular phone inside the training camp. That is prohibited. The trainees’ feet were allegedly whacked again by a bamboo stick by another police officer, also a female. “Ang sayop sa usa, sayop kuno sa tanan (One trainee’s mistake was considered everybody’s mistake),” Bacusmo said, quoting the policewomen. Their ordeal, however, didn’t stop there. The last maltreatment allegedly happened at 8 a.m. last July 12, after the trainees failed to change from their Black Panther uniforms into camouflage green outfits. A police officer allegedly asked them to change within two minutes. Lawyer Zandro Ronnie Oriol, public information officer of Napolcom 7, told Sun.Star Cebu that one of the complainants sought their help. Napolcom 7 Director Homer Cabaral immediately authorized officers to investigate the case and visited the training site. Oriol said two lawyers inspected the trainees and took pictures of the bruises on the women’s feet. Standing up The complainants were brought to a hospital in Carcar City and examined. An investigation report will be released within the week. Oriol said the instructors may be held criminally liable for grave offense and irregularity. Dismissal from service is among the potential sanctions. The Napolcom 7 had received several reports of maltreatment inside the training site before but no one would serve as witnesses once the investigation got underway. “We really appreciate that this time several police officers are willing to put a stop to hazing,” Oriol said. Garbo, for his part, ordered the police to conduct a deeper and parallel investigation against the instructors. “I will never hesitate to investigate, sanction, transfer or dismiss policemen under my administration who will commit lapses,” he said. Last year, two hazing video scandals of the Philippine National Police and military surfaced and sparked public outrage; these showed recruits being humiliated, punched, and beaten while undergoing training.