A sad conclusion to Catanduanes’ first EJK incident

As early as April 2017, former PO1 Vincent Tacorda knew he could be charged for the shooting of Viga drug pusher Samuel Rojas on August 10, 2016.

This the grandson of a war hero and the son of a retired policeman told the Tribune in an interview.

At the time, there was no indication that he would later recant his accusations, just after the Senate invited him to a hearing on extra-judicial killings in the drug war.

Last Friday, Tacorda unenviably made it to the pages of Philippine history when he became the first man to be convicted of a failed extra-judicial killing.

The Regional Trial Court expectedly relied on his voluntary confession, which it noted was given freely and spontaneously, and set aside his affidavit of recantation as the accused’s earlier affidavit was more credible.

Now that the Court has ruled on the credibility of the former policeman’s accusations against his superiors in the Philippine National Police, what happens next?

If the Court believed in Tacorda’s admission of his participation in the slay try against Rojas and the complete details as to how it was planned and the manner in which it was executed, who would now move for the filing of similar charges against his superiors, notably then Catanduanes police provincial director Supt. Jesus Martirez and then Viga police station chief Insp. Nathaniel Jacob?

The reading public may recall that as soon as Tacorda aired his accusations before various media outlets, the Catanduanes police, a ranking police official challenged him to prove it and file appropriate charges before the proper forum.

No such charges were filed by the then resigned policeman and, notably, the Philippine National Police did not even conduct an internal investigation of his allegations against his superiors for their role in the failed extra-judicial killing.

Interestingly, if the public may recall, less than a month after the Rojas shooting, Catanduanes joined the list of provinces where drug suspects have been killed by the police for resisting arrest.

On Sept. 4, 2016, joint elements of local and regional police units acting under the supervision of Supt. Martirez conducted a “buy-bust” operation Mark Bastida Agullana, 34, also known as “Galog,” a resident of barangay Danicop.

The official police report claimed that after the exchange of illegal drug items and the marked money, the suspect ran inside their house, took a handgun and shot at a policeman and the rest of the operation team, but missed hitting anyone.

It said the team was left with no other recourse but to fire back, hitting the suspect seven times on the body and causing him to fall dead to the floor, just meters away from his live-in partner who was then folding clothes.

A big sachet of shabu and a P500 bill was later discovered inserted in the brief of Agullana during a search at the morgue.

His live-in-partner told the Tribune at the time that before the shooting, her husband was lying on the sofa and watching TV, wearing only shorts with no upper garment. She insisted that Mark did not own a gun and that the law enforcers just barged into the house and started shooting.

No investigation was conducted on how the operation unfolded. There were no other witnesses except the police team who shot Agullana, who was ironically from Davao. And understandably, no complaint was filed by his family.

Into this very same unfortunate ending the Tacorda story is seemingly destined, with the resigned policeman left holding the bag, so to speak, and getting punished while his alleged conspirators escape retribution from the law.

He may have to take comfort in the words of crime novelist Agatha Christie:

“Evil never goes unpunished, but the punishment is sometimes secret.”

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