Why relief of Delfin Lee's captor sets bad precedent

Posted at 03/14/2014 10:56 AM | Updated as of 03/14/2014 4:46 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) – The relief of Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa as head of Task Force Tugis could derail efforts to capture the country's top fugitives, according to the father of a missing University of the Philippines student.

Asher Cadapan, father of missing UP student Sherlyn Cadapan, said Cadapan's removal from his post following the successful arrest of Globe Asiatique founder Delfin Lee could set a bad precedent.

Task Force Tugis is a special police unit intent on capturing five top fugitives in the country. The five include Lee, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, former Coron mayor Mario Reyes, former general Jovito Palparan, and former Dinagat congressman Ruben Ecleo.

Asher said Capa's transfer a week after Lee's arrest could jeopardize his family's search for justice.

"Pagkatapos kay Lee wala ng mangangahas humuli kay Palparan at takot na ma-demote (sic). Hindi naman namin matatamo ang hustisya para sa aming anak na si Sherlyn Cadapan," he said in a text message.

Palparan went into hiding after he and three military officials were charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention in December 2011 for the disappearance of Cadapan and fellow UP student-activist Karen Empeño in June 2006.

He has also been dubbed "The Butcher" by human rights groups who accuse him of extrajudicial killings.

On Thursday, an emotional Capa aired his frustration to the media following his removal from Task Force Tugis, which was tasked to hunt down the Big 5.

Asked how he felt about the "relief", he said he felt frustrated.

"Maganda na yung momentum, inspired na yung mga boys ko. Isang linggo pa lang pagkatapos ma-aresto namin si Delfin Lee. Anong nangyari?"

Capa will become deputy regional director for operations in Cebu, the third highest position in the Police Regional Office in Region 7 (Central Visayas).

Capa, who currently holds the rank of police senior superintendent (equivalent to colonel in the military), said he does recognize that it makes him eligible for the rank of police chief superintendent (equivalent of brigadier general in military), and will obey PNP chief Alan Purisima’s instructions.

Capa denied that the transfer is a demotion but noted that the process of promotion will take longer. He , however, said he could have gone a similar path even without leaving Camp Crame.

When asked why - for a man promoted, he did not seem happy - his answer was a curt “next question, please.”

He also refused to give his theories as to why he was relieved.

Purisima denied that Capa's transfer was due to a leak about the alleged pressure brought on the police force to release Lee.

It was earlier reported that Liberal Party treasurer and Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali called Purisima about the arrest of Lee, raising suspicions that the property developer has protectors.

The PNP chief, for his part, said Umali merely inquired if the arrest warrant against Lee was still valid.

UNA: Something smells fishy

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) also shared Cadapan's sentiment, saying the relief of Capa "sends a chilling message that certain high-profile personalities are off limits."

In a statement, UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said Purisima is sending the wrong signal to the police force by transferring Capa despite the breakthrough.

"Is this part of PNP's damage control? Parang ang hirap ipagtugma ang sinasabing promotion ni Purisima sa pagkakatanggal ni Capa as head of the task force that arrested Delfin Lee. Everyone in the PNP would know what a promotion or a demotion is. Instead of inspiring our police force, the relief sends a chilling message that certain high-profile personalities are off limits," he said.