THE Justice Department on Thursday began its preliminary investigation on criminal charges filed against four policemen implicated in the killing of student Kian delos Santos, 17, during an anti-narcotics operation in Caloocan City on Aug. 16.
During the hearing, Kian’s parents Saldy and Lorenza appeared and subscribed to their complaint for murder and torture against Chief Inspector Amor Cerillo, Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares, and Police Officers 1 Jeremiah Pereda and Jerwin Cruz of Caloocan City police station 7.
The complainant through their lead counsel, Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, also presented seven of 16 witnesses before the department’s panel of prosecutors.
The witnesses, whose faces were covered with scarfs, affirmed their respective affidavits that supported the allegations against the four police respondents. Their names were also withheld for security reasons.
Among them was an eyewitness who saw Kian already under custody of the respondents before he was shot dead.
A witness, a minor, who has been under the custody of the Caloocan diocese, also appeared in the hearing.
The PAO also submitted to the DOJ panel the CCTV footage in the area operated by the barangay and results of the forensic exam conducted by the PAO indicating that Kian was lying face down when shot three times—twice in his head and once at the back.
“We are confident that we filed an airtight case based on the statements of our witnesses and forensic evidence,” Acosta said, when interviewed after the hearing.
Representatives of the National Bureau of Investigation, which also filed a separate complaint against the four policemen, were also present during the hearing. They were ordered to present their witnesses in the next hearing.
The investigating prosecutors consolidated the complaints filed by the parents of Kian and that of the NBI and ordered the respondents to answer the charges and file their counter-affidavits in the next hearing set on Sept.25.
The panel composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Tofel Austria, Assistant State Prosecutor Amanda Garcia and Associate Prosecution Attorney Moises Acayan said the respondents would not be given any extension and failure to submit their answers in the next hearing would lead to immediate submission of the case for resolution.
Acosta asked the prosecutors to summon records of the PNP to identify the other policemen who joined the Oplan One-Time Big-Time anti-illegal drug operation in August and who would also be named respondents in the complaint.
“We want to include them as respondents in the case and it will be up to the panel to decide,” she stressed.
After the submission of answers by respondents, the panel also set hearings on Oct. 2 and 10 for filing of reply and rejoinder, respectively.
Meanwhile, the families of slain former UP student Carl Angelo Arnaiz and companion Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman on Thursday asked the Department of Justice to criminally prosecute two Caloocan City policemen implicated in the twin killings.
Carl Angelo’s parents Carlito and Eva and De Guzman’s parents Eddie and Lina accused Police Officers 1 Ricky Arquilita and Jeffrey Perez of involvement in the double murder, torture and planting of evidence under the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.”
Aside from the two policemen, the complainants also impleaded as respondent Tomas Bagcal, the taxi driver who accused Carl Angelo of robbing him before being killed by police.
Acosta, who is helping the complainants in filing the charges, said Bagcal was implicated as a co-conspirator in the killings.
“We believe he had knowledge of the twin killings. He should be brought here in the DOJ to explain his inconsistent affidavits,” Acosta said, in an interview.
However, Acosta did not discount the possibility that Bagcal may become state witness, if he testifies on the side of truth.
“He could even qualify for witness protection program for as long as he tells the whole truth,” the PAO chief said.
The complaint also named other unidentified policemen. Acosta said they would ask the DOJ in preliminary investigation to summon the records of police to determine the other policemen involved in the killings.
Perez and Arquilita had claimed that they killed Arnaiz in a gunfight in the early hours of Aug. 18 after the teenager allegedly robbed Bagcal.
But the complaint cited testimonies of witnesses–including an eyewitness who saw Carl Angelo’s killing—and forensic evidence to debunk the policemen’s claim.
A forensic exam on Carl Angelo’s cadaver showed that he was already kneeling when he was shot several times in the chest, suggesting “intentional killing” on the part of the police.
It also suggested that he was tortured before he was killed as his wrists were swollen and bore handcuff marks and his eyes were bruised.
The autopsy on Kulot also showed he suffered a total of 28 stab wounds, many of which were inflicted after he was already dead.
His body was found Sept. 5 floating in a creek in Nueva Ecija with his head wrapped in packing tape.
The complaint also cited as basis the testimony of eyewitness identified as alias “Daniel” who pointed to probers the site where Carl Angelo was killed by police in C-3 Road in Caloocan.
In his affidavit, the witness said he saw police drag Carl Angelo out of a police patrol car and ordered to kneel on a grassy area. Holding up his bound wrists, the man pleaded that he was surrendering—“susuko na po ako”—but he was shot dead by two policemen.
Daniel said he hid behind a lamppost when the police car pulled to a stop near the grassy area. He said there was also a young boy in the car, which was believed to be Kulot.
The complaint was received by Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. and is set to undergo preliminary investigation.
Also on Thursday, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David denied obstructing justice for protecting the witnesses to the death of Kian Loyd delos Santos.
At a news conference at the Commission on Human Rights central office in Quezon City, David said he has been doing the government a favor for keeping the witnesses in his custody, and that he will never obstruct justice should the witnesses be summoned for a hearing.
“Why should I obstruct justice? The government is not spending anything for them. Don’t they like that? They do not feed them,” he told reporters.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said David must be held liable for taking custody of the witnesses.
“I did not ask them to come to me. I am just helping, facilitating,” the bishop said.
He said the government cannot blame the witnesses if they felt safer with the Church than with the police.
He appealed to the kin of the other victims of extrajudicial killings to come forward, seek the help of their parishioners and to be counted among the other slaying incidents of minors.
“Kian, Carlo Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman are not isolated cases,” he said. With Rio N. Araja