The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday said it would bring murder charges against policemen who tortured and shot dead a teenager accused of robbery, the second such case in just over a week against police from Caloocan City.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said an autopsy conducted by forensic experts indicated that Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, was tortured before he was shot in Caloocan, and the way he was killed was similar to that of Grade 12 student Kian Loyd delos Santos, who was shot dead by policemen in the same city in a drug raid on Aug. 16.
The death of 17-year-old Delos Santos stirred rare public outrage over President Duterte’s fierce war on drugs, in which thousands of suspects have been killed.
Delos Santos was dragged by plainclothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley before he was shot three times and left next to a pigsty, according to witnesses.
Police claimed Delos Santos was armed and they killed him in self-defense.
The body of Arnaiz, a former student of the University of the Philippines, was found on Aug. 28 by his parents in a morgue.
He was last seen alive on Aug. 17. Police said Arnaiz was accused of robbing a taxi driver and died in an ensuing firefight with officers.
The teenager’s parents dispute the police account.
Tomas Marleo Bagcal, 54, the taxi driver allegedly robbed by Arnaiz, submitted two statements to the police, one on Aug. 18 and the other on Aug. 29 after the teenager’s parents had learned the boy was already dead.
In the first statement, Bagcal said he did not know who held him up. There was no description of the robber in the statement.
But in the second statement, he gave a description of the alleged robber that matched the police description of Arnaiz.
He also claimed that he joined the policemen in chasing Arnaiz and took cover behind an electric post when the shootout broke out.
The killing of Arnaiz has not been linked to the campaign against drugs.
Acosta said she could not help but notice the similarities between the cases of Delos Santos and Arnaiz.
“These are really emotional cases. The cases of Kian and Carl had parallelisms and common denominators. How come these incidents both happened in Caloocan?” she told reporters at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Acosta accompanied the parents and sister of Arnaiz to a meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who directed the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the killing of Arnaiz.
“Initially, the autopsy (done by the PAO) showed that what happened was contrary to the allegations of the policemen that (Arnaiz) fought it out,” Aguirre said.
He said the DOJ was willing to provide the family of Arnaiz provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program to ensure their safety.
PAO forensic expert Erwin Erfe said Arnaiz sustained five gunshot wounds—three in the center of the chest, one on the left side of the chest and another in the back of his right arm, “which looked like a defense wound.”
Erfe said Arnaiz also had bruises in different parts of his body and both of his eyes were swollen, suggesting that he may have been tortured.
“He may have been beaten up. His eyes were swollen,” Erfe said.
“His [wrists] also had markings [that] indicated he was handcuffed. So he was handcuffed, beaten up and dragged for some distance before he was killed,” Erfe said.
“Based on our trajectory studies of two bullet wounds, he was kneeling when he was shot. The last two shots were [fired] while he was lying on the floor,” he said.
Erfe said the gunshot wounds and other injuries that Arnaiz sustained contravened the police claims.
“It was an intentional killing,” he said.
Asked if Arnaiz was executed, Erfe said: “Yes, but our terminology is intentional killing. The placement of the gunshots showed that the intention of the shooter was to kill.”
He added: “The shots hit the vital organs of the body. If you are hit with that, you will not survive.”
Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde, head of the National Capital Region Police Office, promised to investigate the killing of Arnaiz.
Arnaiz will be buried at Aliw Cemetery in Pateros today.
The PAO has filed criminal charges against the policemen involved in the killing of Delos Santos.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) followed on Monday, bringing charges in the Office of the Ombudsman against Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo, head of the Northern Police District; and Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna, Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo, PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz of the Caloocan Police Department.
The lawyers’ group also filed charges against police informant Nono Lubiras and several John Does.
The complaint was based on the IBP’s interviews with three eyewitnesses under Senate protection. Their names were edited out of the copy of the complaint given to reporters.
Although the Office of the Ombudsman had opened its own investigation of Delos Santos’ killing, IBP president Abdiel Dan Fajardo said his group’s filing of a complaint should hasten the process of indicting the police officers and dismissing from the service.
“The IBP hopes that with these affidavits of the witnesses, the Ombudsman can now proceed with the investigation and assume jurisdiction and file the information for murder, etc., against the respondents and remove from office the higher-ups for gross neglect of duty,” Fajardo told reporters.
Two senators condemned the killing of Arnaiz, saying it was “unacceptable” and appeared to be a repeat of the case of Delos Santos.
“How many times do we need to remind these guys, the [Philippine National Police was] created to serve and protect the people,” Sen. Joel Villanueva said in a post on Twitter.
Sen. Sonny Angara said the police should be taught proper law enforcement because the country “needs no killing machines.”
The Liberal Party also condemned the killing of Arnaiz and urged President Duterte and the PNP to bring the erring policemen to justice. —With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy, Aie Balagtas See, and the wires