Manila, Philippines – The police is set to file charges against “more than” 20 people after a mob, composed mostly of settlers on a disputed property, killed two security guards in a bloody demolition in San Juan town in Batangas province.
Case investigator Police Officer 1 Richard King Valenzuela on Wednesday said they have so far identified 20 men, although he said it could be more than that as police reviewed cellphone and camera footages of the demolition on Monday.
The clash in the popular beach area of Barangay Laiya-Aplaya was triggered when the demolition team ferried on eight tourist buses arrived supposedly to build a fence on a private property being occupied by more than a hundred families.
The residents fought back the demolition team, prompting episodes of rock and bottle pelting.
When the dust settled, the police said Kennedy Ladia and a certain Estino, both security guards under the JPS Security Agency and natives of Patikul, Sulu died, while Nelson Ballega and Jerimias Garcia also from the side of the demolition team were injured.
Militant organization Pambansang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, meanwhile, said residents Hermie Garcia, 60, Peter Tranzares, 50, and Kenneth Cerezo, 23, were badly hurt.
Valenzeula said they were set to file either homicide or murder charges against those identified “to have had the tendency and had inflicted pain causing the death” of the security guards.
The Inquirer on Wednesday obtained a one-minute video from a government source, showing a mob of men with wooden clubs attacking a uniformed guard later identified by the police as Ladia. The video was taken by a drone owned by a nearby resort.
In the video, the men were seen dumping the already unconscious Ladia in the middle of the road as some continued hitting him in the body and head.
“He was still alive when our (police) mobile picked him up and brought him to the hospital,” Valenzuela said, although this was [no longer] showed in the video.
He also said that it was only after the mob was dispersed that the police found Estino, lying not quite far from Ladia, “dying.”
Both security guards died hours later.
“Some of those men were not from here. New faces. When we went back to the area, most of the men were also already gone and the women faced us,” Valenzuela said.
Elsie Lucero of the local fisherfolk group Haligi ng Batangueñong Anakdagat said “no one was to blame for the deaths” but the land owner who ordered the demolition without a court order.
“(They) committed illegal trespassing and destruction of property and we had no other choice but to actively defend our houses from the demolition,” she said in a statement.
San Juan mayor Rodolfo Manalo, meanwhile, said they did not anticipate
Monday’s incident and encouraged the residents to relocate to the government resettlement area.
The police were only waiting for the guards’ death certificates and hoped to file the case this week.