Balay Mindanaw mulls suing CDO police over 'illegal search'

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Balay Mindanaw Foundation Incorporated (BMFI) is studying filing a complaint against policemen who barged into their Balay Mindanaw Peace Center compound in Barangay Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City, on Wednesday, November 13.

Members of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office's (Cocpo) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) entered the premises of nongovernmental organization BMFI and "illegally" checked the belongings of its guests at the lobby of the center.

Cocpo's K9 military working dog inspected and sniffed the bags of participants from Marawi as they were checking out of the building.

BMFI President Kaloy Manlupig earlier called it an "illegal search" because the policemen did not have a search warrant. 

In a text message, Manlupig said that they are submitting their report to the Regional Peace and Order Council and studying filing a complaint against the police involved.

Manlupig described the barging of the police officers as a "taste of martial law" as they entered the premises without introducing themselves and left without saying any word.

Manlupig said that the police station commander of Bulua Police Station, Police Major Aldren Baculio, went to the BMFI "within a few hours after the incident" to personally apologize.

Cocpo Spokesperson Police Major Ivan Viñas also accepted that the police were at fault for the "miscommunication."

Viñas added that the two police officers are now on preventive suspension as they are being investigated for how they conducted their search. 

Manlupig said the PNP's city and regional offices, through their spokespersons, have also expressed their regret over the police officers' "wrongdoing."

"While we tend to believe and accept PNP's explanation, we are also duty bound to take appropriate action. We will soon formally file a report to appropriate bodies," Manlupig said.

He added: "May this be a learning experience for all of us. For the civil society, the private sector, and the citizens in general to remain vigilant in protecting our rights. For the law enforcers to be mindful and true to their duty of not just enforcing laws but more importantly, of respecting the rights of every citizen." –