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Friday, April 19, 2024

Navotas court convicts lone cop of killing ‘Jemboy’

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The Navotas City Regional Trial Court on Tuesday convicted a policeman for homicide and four others for illegal discharge of firearms in connection with the killing of a 17-year-old son of an overseas Filipino worker last year.

The Department of Justice earlier charged six policemen with murder for the death of Jerhode Jemboy Salazar, who was killed in an alleged case of mistaken identity during a police operation in Navotas City in August 2023.

In a 44-page decision, the Navotas City RTC found Police Staff Sergeant Gerry Sabate Maliban guilty for the crime of homicide.

On the other hand, Police Executive Master Sergeant (PEMS) Roberto Dioso Balais Jr., Police Staff Sergeant Nikko Pines Corollo Esquillon, Police Corporal (PCpl) Edmark Jade Blanco and Patrolman Benedict Danao Mangada were found guilty of illegal discharge of firearms only.

Police Staff Sergeant Antonio Balcita Bugayong, one of the six accused, was exonerated by the trial court because the prosecution failed to prove that he fired his gun during the incident.

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“This is a story of a hot pursuit operation that ended in tragedy. The death of Jerhode Jemboy Salazar, who is not the suspect, could have been avoided had a police officer applied self-restraint, for a police officer is not justified in shooting a person because that person did not heed his call to surrender,” Navotas RTC Branch 286 Presiding Judge Pedro Dabu Jr. said.

Meanwhile, the Baltazar family expressed their grief over the outcome of the case at a press briefing held at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“We’re expecting a conviction but what happened was the opposite. One policeman was convicted and meted only four years in prison. He will eventually regain his freedom as if my son was not killed,” Jemboy’s mother Rodaliza Baltazar said.

Jemboy’s father, Jessie Baltazar, said the court’s verdict was not commensurate with the crime committed.

“It’s very painful on our part, our family is not happy with the decision. I lost my son, who was helping me earn a living,” he said.

DOJ spokesman Jose Dominic Clavano IV said the agency would continue to support the Baltazar family in seeking justice.

Clavano said the prosecutors would be reviewing the decision of the Navotas RTC as instructed by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla for the purpose of filing an appeal.

“Our next step is to file an appeal before the Court of Appeals through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),” Clavano said.

The Philippine National Police said Baltazar’s case should serve as a reminder to cops to strictly follow operational procedures.

“We hope this serves as an eye-opener and reminder to the police to adhere to our existing police operational procedure,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said.

She said the use of firearms should not be the first approach in apprehending a suspect based on the PNP’s operational procedure.

Maliban was sentenced to up to six years and four months of imprisonment and ordered to pay the amount of P100,000 as moral and civil damages.

The trial court slapped the four policemen with four months and one day of imprisonment.

With the decision, the trial court directed Senior Inspector Jose Marie Sabeniano of the Metro Manila District Jail to credit the preventive imprisonment of the four policemen.

“If after crediting their preventive imprisonment, the said accused have already served the sentence imposed upon them here, it behooves upon him to release from detention PEMS Roberto Balais, Jr., PSSg Nikko Pines Corollo Esquillon, PCpl. Edward Jade Blanco and Pat. Benedict Manganda unless any of them is being held for some unlawful cause,” Dabu said.

The trial court ruled out the crime of murder as the prosecution failed to prove that Jemboy’s killing was premeditated.

In the case of Maliban, it was established that he was the one who fatally shot Jemboy based on the gun cartridge recovered from the crime scene which positively matched his service firearm.

According to forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, Baltazar took a bullet in his head before drowning, which led to his death. Human rights advocates decried the incident, leading to protests against police brutality.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “Navotas court finds cop guilty of homicide over death of Jemboy Baltazar.”

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