No Tokhang operation conducted, says PNP-LB
No warrantless body searches or Oplan Tokhang operation happened at LB Square along Grove, Lopez Avenue in Brgy. Batong Malake on Monday night, UPLB Perspective has learned.
Citing unverified social media posts saying that body searches were “confirmed” to have been conducted at the Square, PO2 Raymond Malabanan, on-duty investigator of the Los Baños Municipal Police Station, told the UPLB Perspective in an interview Wednesday evening: “Kami naman dito sa Los Baños PNP, pinabubulaanan namin ang sinabing iyon.”
“Walang pangangapkap. Ni preventive search nga, wala kaming ginawa,” he added.
The local law enforcement authorities said they were there at the Square, where several restaurants and bars are located, to respond to an emergency.
According to Malabanan, the on-duty investigator on the incident, eight people had a fight at the second floor of Cubes Resto Bar in LB Square at past 11pm on Monday. Relationship dispute was seen as a motive behind the incident. Two of those involved underwent medical examinations, Malabanan said.
The owner of the resto bar had no interest in pressing charges, Malabanan said. “Wala naman siyang interes na magreklamo, pinabayaran na lang ang mga nasira, mga nabasag,” he added.
Malabanan confirmed that three emergency response vehicles were on the scene to respond to the incident. Two of these are Los Baños PNP’s mobile vehicles which were stationed at the Junction area, while one is from Barangay Batong Malake. He said that all the members of the Los Baños PNP, including its chief, PSupt. Arvin Avelino, who were at the Junction area for Oplan Sita, a regular police operation, responded to the said incident.
The Barangay Public Safety Office (BPSO) of Barangay Batong Malake also responded to the quarrel. The incident was confirmed by Dindo Tuazon, a radio operator for Barangay Batong Malake. In a separate interview with the UPLB Perspective, he said that the incident was reported on the barangay’s blotter.
The barangay radioed the incident to the police, Malabanan said. He also mentioned that the incident was settled in the barangay level, thus, it was not recorded in the police’s blotter. “Kung dito sila magba-blotter, automatic, magkakaso sila. Eh napagdesisyunan naman nilang isantabi ang paghahabla,” the investigator said.
The manager of Cubes and other eyewitnesses that the UPLB Perspective have talked to also denied the alleged warrantless searches on students and patrons of the Square. They also denied that drugs were involved in that incident.
Ace, the owner of Cubes Resto Bar, told UPLB Perspective that no customer was subjected to a body search. Policemen did not enter in other establishments, he added.
“Buong magdamag, nandito kami, wala naman kaming na-observe na nakapkapang mga estudyante o customer. Wala akong nakita kasi hanggang madaling araw kami nag-stay dito,” he said.
Two witnesses have also spoken to the UPLB Perspective, telling the same story. One of the witnesses, a waiter at Cubes, said that their cashier called the attention of policemen stationed at a public assistance desk near the Square.
When asked whether arrests were made that night, he said: “Wala naman po.”
Another witness, a waiter at another restaurant in the Square, when asked about alleged entry of policemen in other establishments, said: “Hindi po sila pumasok [sa amin].” The same witness also denied reports of students being subjected to searches.
Continuing call for vigilance
Political alliance Samahan ng Kabataan Para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) was the first to publish an alert on early Tuesday morning to students and the UPLB community on the incident on Monday. “We have been informed that police officers are allegedy conducting search of bags at LB Square and Tresto in connection with Oplan Tokhang,” the statement posted on their Facebook page read.
The said alert is still up as of press time, with 374 reactions and 851 shares.
However, Tresto Garden Restaurant, via its Facebook page, denied the conduct of any police operation in their establishment, saying that “part of [SAKBAYAN’s] propaganda is ‘fake news.’”
When asked about the alleged operation in Tresto, Los Baños police deferred to the restaurant’s statement.
For their part, SAKBAYAN said in a later statement issued Tuesday evening via social media that they are continuing “to affirm its call for vigilance in the whole UPLB community in light of recent threats to our civil liberties.”
“First and foremost, our concern would be the safety and security of our constituents. We must ensure that we are able to enjoy our rights,” SAKBAYAN said in a text message to the UPLB Perspective.
“Thus, we call on the UPLB community to stay vigilant given the present political climate in the country,” they added.
For the part of the UPLB University Student Council, chairperson Charmane Jay Maranan said in a separate phone interview: “Syempre, magkakaroon ng fact finding committee, ad hoc na fact finding committee or [iimbestigahan] ng EdRes (Education and Research) Committee) kung anong nangyari.” [P]