Child recants account after police interviewCebu Daily News
With no social worker present, the Lapu-Lapu City police interviewed a 7-year-old boy who witnessed how 7-year-old Joshua Veloso drowned in the waters in barangay Buaya, Lapu-Lapu City, last Feb. 29.
“Niangkon primiro pero amo man gibali-bali ug sulti (pangutana). (The 7-year-old boy at first admitted that he saw a boy who pushed Joshua in the seawaters, but we reversed the questions),” said PO2 Franklin Bulaquia said.
Bulaquia, homicide investigator of the Lapu-Lapu City police, said he and homicide section chief Insp. Zenaido Patorfide went to the boy’s house to ask him about Joshua’s drowning last Friday afternoon.
Bulaquia said they asked the boy in front of his parents if he saw Joshua being harassed by underage bullies. He said they were accompanied by a reporter from a local daily.
Bulaquia said the 7-year-old boy told them at first that he saw a teenage boy push Joshua into the seawaters.
But later on, he said the child told them that he only heard about it.
Bulaquia said they asked two questions to the 7-year-old boy.
“We asked a leading question, you could tell that he may have seen it. But we formulated another question to test the credibility (of the boy),” Bulaquia said.
Bulaquia did not share further details on the specific questions that he asked to the 7-year-old boy.
“In and out iyang storya (The 7-year-old boy’s statement is inconsistent),” Bulaquia said.
Bulaquia said they brought the boy and his mother to the bamboo foot bridge near the sea where Joshua drowned and asked the child where he stood at the time.
“Di maklaro, gi-ingnan ra man ko nga naay nalumos (It was not clear, I was just told that someone drowned),” Bulaquia quoted the 7-year-old boy’s reply.
Bulaquia said contrary to reports, the 15-year-old boy who allegedly pushed Joshua didn’t leave home.
He said they went to the boy’s house and was told by his parents that he is still 11 years old based on his birth certificate.
When Cebu Daily News visited the 7-year-old boy’s house yesterday, he and his 32-year-old mother was not around.
The boy’s aunt who refused to be named said the boy’s mother was advised by another aunt not to let the child become a “witness.”
“We are afraid of their lives . . . The culprit was not jailed. The first interview is enough,” the aunt told Cebu Daily News.
Up to God
Bulaquia said that the 7-year-old boy and his mother were invited by the investigators of the Women and Children’s Protection Desk (WCPD) and executed an affidavit from the boy yesterday afternoon.
In a separate phone interview, PO1 Judith Sinadjan of the WCPD said they also executed an affidavit of the 11-year-old boy who allegedly pushed Joshua in the seawaters.
Sinadjan said she cannot disclose the details of the two affidavits.
A discouraged Alma Rocacolba, Joshua’s mother, said she already lost hope on hearing the news. “I’ll just leave the fate (of the perpetrators) to God,” she said.
Alma said Bulaquia went to their house last Sunday and informed her that Joshua’s drowning was an “accident.”
She earlier said she won’t press charges on the underage culprits since there were no witnesses.
She said she will just wait for the advice of their lawyer Elmer Yuson.
Alma said she cried after hearing that the boy won’t testify.
“What can we do? We are not pleased with the result of the police investigation,” Alma said.
Lawyer Noemi Truya-Abarientos of the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) said a child should be in the company of a parent, guardian or social worker when questioned by police authorities.
“Children are very sensitive to police officers. Their concept is if they will be asked by a police officer, they are faulted for something,” Abarientos told Cebu Daily News.
She said the presence of parents, guardians or social workers is needed when a child or minor is questioned to assess if the line of questioning of the police will go “overboard” or if they mislead the child.
Abarientos said there is an existing presumption that minors cannot express themselves on their own capacity, thus requiring the presence of a parent or guardian along their side is required.
Before the child is questioned, a proper explanation of the purpose of the police inquiry should be facilitated by the parents or social worker so the child won’t feel uncomfortable.
She said the presence of a lawyer is not required since the child witness is not an arrested person.
Abarientos said there could have been other factors that led to the child recanting his account, aside from the questioning done by the police. Rhea Ruth V. Rosell, Correspondent with Reporter Candeze R. Mongaya