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Report 22 Killed by Police ‘Crimebusters’ in Manila

May 14, 1985

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Officials on Monday defended police ″crimebusters″ who have killed 22 suspected criminals in two weeks in a crackdown on armed robberies, but critics called the units death squads.

The undercover operation, aimed at reducing robberies on Manila’s public transportation vehicles, began two weeks ago and revived a force of ″secret marshals″ disbanded by President Ferdinand E. Marcos under criticism last year.

Marcos had personally ordered last year’s operation, but police officials took credit for the new force dubbed ″Crimebusters″ by Manila Police Chief Gen. Narciso Cabrera.

″I’d like to think that with the activation of these special teams we have generated an improved sense of well-being and security among the riding public,″ Cabrera said at a breakfast forum also attended by several national assemblyman.

Police said about 350 plainclothes officers are on the special force, with many assigned to ride the ″jeepneys,″ the jeep-buses that provide the bulk of Manila’s public transportation.

An opposition newspaper, Malaya, reported last week that five of the first 15 suspects killed by the undercover officers had no previous criminal records and several had only minor offenses in their case histories, such as vagrancy.

But Gen. Victor Natividad, a Manila police commander responding to criticism from an opposition assemblyman at Monday’s meeting, said, ″These are not exactly the innocents you paint them to be.″

Other police officials at the forum compared the ″crimebusters″ operation to decoy police work that they said was conducted in many American cities, including New York and Denver, Colo.

Natividad said police had confiscated 18 firearms, including a shotgun, and dozens of other weapons since the operation began two weeks ago. He said two policemen have been killed in the campaign and there have been 59 arrests.

Orlando Mercado, an opposition assemblyman, told the forum, ″I feel that for peace and order we are paying too much of a price. This death squad is an indictment of the police service that is being provided our people.″

Manila Mayor Ramon Bagatsing, a Marcos supporter, also criticized the police operation, saying that instead the city needs more uniformed officers.

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