FINAL JOURNEY. Philippine Army soldiers stand guard at the wake of Mayor Ronaldo Aquino at the Calbayog City Sports Center on Sunday (March 14, 2021). Aquino and five others were killed in an alleged shootout on March 8. (Photo courtesy of Calbayog-PIO)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) ordered the relief of Calbayog City police chief Lt. Col. Neil Montaño effective Sunday in connection with the March 8 “shootout” that killed Mayor Ronaldo Aquino and five others.
PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said in a statement that the sacking was a result of intelligence chief Lt. Fernando Calabria Jr. seeking from the court a list of lawyers defending alleged communists.
Calabria was previously relieved of his duties, too.
"The relief order is in connection with the incident in March 8 incident in Calbayog City which resulted in the death of Mayor Ronaldo Aquino and five other people, including three PNP personnel and at the same time, the irresponsible conduct of his intelligence officer in relation to the letter request to the local court," Eleazar’s statement read.

Montaño will be replaced by Lt. Col. Rodolfo Albotra while Maj. Ruel Burlat was designated as the new chief of the city police’s intelligence unit.
Aside from Montaño and Calabria, nine other non-commissioned officers were reassigned to the Samar Provincial Police Office to undergo refresher seminar.

The relief orders were based on the recommendation of the Police Regional Office 8 director Brig. Gen. Ronaldo de Jesus.

"This reorganization is intended not only to improve the investigation and intelligence capacity of the Calabayog City Police Station in the light of the two incidents that happened but also to infuse new ideas and strategies on peace and order with the deployment of new police officers in the area," Eleazar added.

Another new appointee was Maj. Marino Estoño as the company commander of the Calbayog City-based 1st Samar Provincial Mobile Forces Company.

“Estoño just finished his commando course and we expect that his deployment in Calbayog City will calm the tension and address security apprehensions of the local residents as a result of the incident involving Mayor Aquino,” the PNP statement said.

Also killed on the spot were S/Sgt. Rodeo Balonzo and S/Sgt. Romeo Laoyon, and Aquino’s driver, Dennis Abayon.

Clint John Paul Yauder, a local government employee whose car was passing by when the alleged shootout happened, later died at St. Camillus Hospital Calbayog while the body of Capt. Joselito Tabada, chief of Samar Drug Enforcement Unit and acting chief of police of nearby Gandara town, was found under the Laboyao Bridge in Lonoy village on the same night.

Aquino, 58, was on his last term. He reportedly came from a tennis match and was on his way to his son’s birthday celebration. PNA)