MANILA, Philippines — Months after claiming that his superiors allegedly ordered him to carry out extrajudicial killings of individuals in Catanduanes believed to be linked to drugs, Police Officer 1 Vicent Tacorda made a turnaround.
On Monday, Sen., Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, read a July 3 letter from Tacorda, quoting the policeman as saying that, “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; [that] I had expounded in an affidavit of recantation on 29 June 2017,” added Tacorda in his letter read by Lacson.
Tacorda resigned last April after claiming that he was ordered to shoot suspects by his superiors so that Catanduanes police officers would have an accomplishment in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs campaign and won’t be terminated from their services.
“May ebidensya ako niyan. Inoorderan nila ako mag-conduct ng pamamaril nga, kasi nakikiusap sila kung p’wede daw kasi mare-relieve sila dahil lahat na may accomplishment na, Catanduanes na lang ang walang nasasampolan,” Tacorda said during a media interview last April.
“Kaya nakiusap sila sa akin kung ‘pwede ako mag-sample. Dahil siya ang COP (Chief of Police) ko noon…kaya sumunod ako,” he added.
Tacorda was referring to former Catanduanes Police chief Jesus Martirez, whom he also accused of allegedly instructing him not to declare the amount and worth of seized illegal drugs during operations if the money involved was too big.
In his May 10 affidavit, which was presented by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV during the Senate committee hearing on Monday, Tacorda related how his superiors allegedly assigned him as “shooter” and prepared his needs to kill an alleged suspect.
He said he was given an P800-budget for his food and lodging, a picture of his target, and a folder with a note stating, “Pusher ako, huwag tularan [I’m a pusher, don’t be like me] – Bicol vigilante,” which was handwritten using a red pentel pen.
Tacorda likewise claimed the operation against his target “was well-coordinated with the chief of police.”
“I checked-in at D’Mark Hotel and decided to execute the plan at night time. I was ordered to coordinate with the senior intel operative, who is watching the target. When I was given the exact location of the target in Barangay San Jose, Viga, Catanduanes, I went to the place on board a motorcycle driven by a former police officer,” Tacorda said in his May affidavit.
“When I located the target, I initially passed by his location and when I saw him, I decided to go back. We parked the motorcycle at the corner of the nearest street. I casually walked towards the target using the folder to cover my firearmand fired the bullet at his back. I tried to fire again but my firearm got jammed…Hence, I just threw the folder on him and rushed back to the waiting motorcycle and left the scene. I was then wearing a helmet and a jacket so that nobody can recognize me,” he added.
During the Senate hearing on Monday, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Ronald dela Rosa said Tacorda resigned after the news exposé about his complaint against his superiors but afterwards withdrew his resignation.
“Right after lumabas ‘yong exposé, nag-submit siya ng resignation letter, but afterwards winithdraw niya dahil ayaw niya mag-resign,” the PNP chief said.
Also Dela Rosa said said Tacorda was linked to the killing of a journalist based in Catanduanes and that Tacorda allegedly came out with his affidavit last May after he was implicated in the said slay.
Asked by Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros during the Senate inquiry if news reports published last May were true that Tacorda was told to avoid issuing statements critical of the PNP, Dela Rosa said, “Wala po, your honor [Nothing stopped him from doing so, your honor].”
But the PNP chief added that if Tacorda would be requested to refrain from giving such statements, he saw “no bad intention” if the appeal would be made “without threat.”
Lascon said his committee had requested Tacorda to appear in the Senate hearing but the police officer declined the invitation.
The senator ordered the PNP to produce Tacorda in the next hearing on October 10.