"I sure hope General Eleazar would have an answer one day soon."
While the “drugs war” is the centerpiece of President Duterte’s platform that overwhelmingly won him the presidency in 2016, it now tends to undermine his administration’s accomplishments due to the continued abuses of some policemen.
A grieving 60-year old mother reached me for help seeking justice for the death of her son, an alleged victim of yet another case of “nanlaban” or alleged encounter with anti-drugs policemen in Oas, Albay Province.
Evelyn Bautista received a phone call from police authorities last July 20 about the death of rental car operator Jose Maria “Arvin” Bautista, two days after the latter was hired to drive two men to Quezon Province.
For still-undetermined reasons, 28-year old Arvin turned up dead along with two other men after allegedly engaging local policemen in a botched buy-bust operation that led to a “shootout.”
The aggrieved mother, however, said her son could not have died in a shootout with cops as he bore wounds and contusions all over his body similar to his two passengers.
“Hinihiling ko po na mabigyan ng hustisya yung nangyari sa anak ko kasi kung talagang nag shootout sila at nanlaban sila, bakit may bakas na tinalian sila at pinahirapan po talaga,” Evelyn said.
She believes Arvin could not have been involved with illegal drugs and had a clean police record, and worked diligently.
“Bakit po basta nalang po pumapatay sila nang parang kumakatay ng hayop,” Evely cried.
When asked about the wounds and contusions on Arvin, P/Maj. Jerald John Villafuerte, chief of Oas Municipal Police Station, said he would not know pending further investigation.
“Actually, hindi ko din masagot kung bakit may mga pasa sya,” Villafuerte said.
For unexplained reasons, the police official could not show my news team the incident report and autopsy report on the dead bodies.
He merely insisted his men’s operation was legitimate and only one of the three men, alias Ramon Mutuc, was their target.
“Ang target lang talaga namin that time ay si Ramon Mutuc kasi yun lang naman ang kausap ni CI at hindi naman kami nag-eexpect na may kasama pang iba actually wala kaming identity nung dalawa, eh,” Villafuerte added.
P/Col.Rodolfo Castil, Jr., PNP-PRO5 deputy regional director for operations, promised an impartial investigation into the incident, which he said will reach the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS).
Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Marc Siapno, said the agency is looking into the case, as well.
“Ito rin pong kasong nangyari sa Legaspi, Albay ay kasalukuyang na rin po nating iniimbestigahan nang malalim,” Siapno assured.
Sought for comment about the new cases of alleged extra-judicial killing (EJK), PNP Chief General Albayalde was not immediately available for comment.
He is reportedly doing his rounds of police precincts, inspecting that surroundings are clean and green and that anti-Covid protocols are observed.
Truth be told, the PNP has not salvaged its tarnished image and failed to recoup in its lack of credibility since the kidnap-murder of Jee Ick Joo, who was strangled to death inside Camp Crame in October 2016.
Policemen kidnapped the Korean businessman at his subdivision house in Angeles City, Pampanga, along with his househelp, and was framed for illegal drugs to demand a PHP8 million ransom.
Jee was killed in cold-blood inside the PNP headquarters after his wife, Choi Kyung Jin, refused to deliver the PHP3 million balance without seeing proof of her husband being alive.
In January 2017, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) found the funeral parlor in Bagbaguin, Caloocan where Jee’s body was cremated and his ashes flushed down the toilet.
The suspects, including Supt. Rafael Dumlao III, SPO4 Roy Villegas, Jerry Omlang, Gerardo Santiago, SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel were eventually arrested in 2017 and the case is still pending in court.
In November 2019, former PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde opted to retire early amid the scandal about his involvement with the so-called “Ninja Cops” who engaged in “recycling” or reselling drug contrabands.
And last December, an anti-narcotics policeman shot dead his neighbors, a woman and her son, over a petty quarrel in Tarlac City, caught on a cellphone video and went viral on the internet for all the world to see.
Although it remains generally peaceful in the country, violent crimes, assassinations and street crimes have risen amidst widespread poverty and hunger, over nine months till the May 9, 2022 elections.
I sure hope General Eleazar would have an answer one day soon.