The Caloocan City Regional Trial Court has sentenced Police Officer 1 Jeffrey Perez to two life terms plus reclusion perpetua (another 20 to 40 years) after finding him guilty of planting of evidence and torture, in connection with the killings of teenagers Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman in August 2017.
In the decision, Presiding Judge Rodrigo Pascua Jr. of the Caloocan RTC, Branch 122, said the lower court gave more weight to the testimony of star witness Arnold Perlada along with the findings of Dr. Erwin Erfe, a forensic consultant and designated director of the Public Attorney’s Office Forensic Laboratory Service, in convicting Perez of violating the Anti-Torture Act of 2010, and violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 for planting of evidence.
“After a careful scrutiny of the records and evaluation of the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution, the court is convinced that the prosecution was able to overcome its burden,” the judge ruled.
“The court finds the testimony of Perlada on matters relevant to the case before us, corroborated by the forensic report and the expert testimony of Dr. Erfe worthy of belief,” he said.
Perez along with his co-accused PO1 Ricky Arquilita claimed that Arnaiz was killed in a shooting incident during a legitimate anti-illegal drug operation. Arquilita died during the pendency of the trial of the case which extinguished his criminal liability.
Perlada testified that on Aug. 17, 2017, he and a friend came from a party in Taksay Street in Caloocan when he witnessed Arnaiz killing.
The witness said he saw the accused bringing Arnaiz out of a parked police car and ordered him to kneel on a grassy area.
Then he saw Arnaiz holding up his bound wrists and shouted “susuko na po ako” (I surrender)—before he was shot three times.
The witness also testified that he saw another young boy inside the police car that night, who is believed to be De Guzman, a friend of Arnaiz.
Arnaiz and De Guzman went missing from their residence in Cainta, Rizal.
Their bodies were later found in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija with Arnaiz sustaining gunshot wounds while De Guzman was stabbed 30 times.
Forensic examination on Arnaiz’s body showed that he was kneeling when he was shot several times on the chest, suggesting intentional killing on the part of the accused.
It was also discovered that Arnaiz was tortured before he was killed as his wrists were swollen and bore handcuff marks and his eyes were bruised.
The autopsy on De Guzman showed that he was tortured prior to his death with 28 stab wounds.
His body was found on Sept. 5, 2017 in a creek in Nueva Ecija with his head wrapped in packing tape.
“PO1 Jefrey S.Perez is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for all the crimes charged against him,” Pascua said in his ruling dated Nov. 10.
For violation of Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2010 against Arnaiz, the court sentenced Perez to a prison term of six months as minimum to four years and two months as maximum.
For violation of the same law in relation to De Guzman, the accused was sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
Perez was also meted two life terms for planting evidence, in addition to “absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office.”
“Additionally, accused is hereby ordered to pay the heirs of Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo De Guzman alias Kulot moral damages amounting to P1 million and exemplary damages amounting to P1 million, or a total of P2 million for each of the victim’s heirs,” the RTC said.
“An interest at the rate of six percent per annum shall be imposed on all monetary awards from the date of finality of this decision until fully paid,” it added.
The court said the victim’s heirs are “likewise entitled to claim for compensation as provided under Republic Act 7309 for an amount to be determined by the government agency concerned.”
RA 7309 is the law that created the Board of Claims for victims of unjust imprisonment or detention and victims of violent crimes.
Earlier this month, some member nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said the Philippines should take action to protect and promote human rights, including addressing killings during the war on drugs.
The UNHRC states made the recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which assessed the human rights record of several countries.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, who led the Philippine delegation, who told the body that impunity was not tolerated and that the government provided a democratic space for rights activists in the country.
A number of member-states called for the solution of the cases of killings and the protection of human rights defenders.
France said the incumbent administration should take necessary measures to effectively combat impunity for perpetrators of summary execution in the anti-drug campaign.
Canada said it must be ensured that victims in the war on drugs have “access to justice” by effective prosecution.
Belgium recommended that the Philippines also take swift action on the killing of journalists.
The Public Attorney’s Office on Wednesday welcomed the conviction of a Perez.
“We won the first case of torture,” PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta told the Manila Standard.
Meanwhile, 10 members of the Drug Enforcement Group of the Philippine National Police (PDEG) have been relieved amid an ongoing investigation into an anti-drug operation in Manila that yielded nearly one ton of shabu and led to the arrest of a police officer on Oct. 8.
PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said Wednesday that among the relieved officers were some PDEG team leaders and the immediate supervisor of the suspect Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr., a PDEG intelligence officer and the owner of Wealth and Personal Development Lending Inc. in Sta. Cruz, Manila, which was raided by authorities.
They were temporarily transferred to the Personnel Holding and Accounting unit (PHAU) at Camp Crame.
Fajardo said the measure was implemented under the doctrine of command responsibility.
“We are not saying they are directly involved with Mayo, who was caught in possession of large amounts of shabu, but for transparency and accountability and command responsibility, they are being temporarily relieved from the DEG to give way to the SITG’s investigation,” she said.
Earlier, the two police sergeants assigned with the PDEG allegedly sneaked out some 42 kilos of shabu from the 990 kilos of shabu seized during the Oct. 8 operation.
PDEG chief Brig. Gen. Narciso Domingo discovered the incident after a review of the closed circuit television camera (CCTV) footage before and after the raid at the Wealth and Personal Development Lending Inc. in Sta. Cruz, Manila, which was owned by Mayo.
In the footage, a man was seen going out of the lending agency office and was later seen loading two bags inside a car.
When one of the police sergeants was asked to shed light on the incident, the cop admitted that there were 30 kilos of shabu still in their possession and that the car is owned by another PDEG operative.
When the other PDEG operative was asked to appear before the PDEG headquarters, he informed his superior instead that he would just leave the illegal drugs near Camp Crame in Quezon City.
During the inspection, it was found that there were 42 kilos left by the PDEG operative, which has an estimated street value of P285.6 million.
Following the operation, Azurin said they would request the proper court for the immediate destruction of the confiscated illegal drugs in order to prevent any recycling attempts.