THE Philippine National Police (PNP) denied on Saturday, January 21, 2023, the reported coercion of a Senate witness in relation to the probe on soaring prices of onion.

In a statement, the PNP said the incident that occurred between Merlita Gallardo and the personnel of Bayambang Police Station was a “mere misunderstanding.”

Senator Imee Marcos earlier warned police to back off after receiving reports that police went to Gallardo’s residence asking her to sign an affidavit retracting the statements she made on Monday, January 16, before the Senate inquiry, that her husband committed suicide due to millions worth of debt gained due to onion farming.

The PNP said that in response to an advisory letter from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Office, police personnel of the said station interviewed Gallardo to verify and gather additional information on the alleged suicide incidents of five farmers from Bayambang, Pangasinan.

It said the interview was conducted accordingly as the policemen were in full uniform, onboard marked patrol vehicles, and assisted by barangay officials.

“It was not intended to harass or cause her any harm or her family, rather it was to clarify and give more comprehensive reports on the truthfulness of the information regarding the alleged suicides,” the PNP said.

“ The PNP personnel never coerced Mrs. Gallardo to recant her statements during the senate hearing or sign an affidavit against her will. The statement she was about to sign was a result of an interview conducted by the investigator to clarify the circumstances about the death of her husband due to respiratory failure secondary to organophosphate poisoning,” it added.

The PNP also found that the death of Gallardo’s husband on January 19, 2021, was the only suicide committed by a farmer in Pangasinan, contrary to the alleged five suicide incidents of farmers in the municipality.

PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr., however, apologized to Gallardo over the misunderstanding and instructed the Pangasinan police to extend assistance and assure her safety and allay her apprehensions over the series of visits by police officers.

“The PNP assures the public of our full support in the ongoing Senate investigation in aid of legislation. We are at all times ready to render appropriate security for Mrs. Gallardo and her family and any possible witness as may be requested to allow them to further testify as resource persons in the Senate hearing,” said Azurin. (SunStar Philippines)