Two officers relieved, face probe for mauling foreignerCebu Daily News
It was so inhuman.”
This was the initial assessment of the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas after viewing TV footage of the Sunday mauling of an unruly and intoxicated Papua New Guinea student by two police officers of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).
The case, now under investigation on orders of Camp Crame, opens questions on whether unjustified force was used to arrest the 29-year-old foreign student, Bennedict Penini.
The student, detained by the Tourism Police, turned out to be the son of a high official in his country, reportedly a parliament minister.
Bail was recommended for his liberty at P2,000 on a charge of direct assault.
CHR-7 investigator Primo Cadampong reviewed ABS-CBN footage of the incident yesterday.
“What the two SWAT officers did to Penini was inhuman,” Cadampong told Cebu Daily News.
He said the CHR 7 asked Penini, an information technology student in a Cebu City university, to issue a sworn statement on his experience.
Penini was subdued by policemen responding to a trouble alarm after a drinking session by a group of Papua New Guina nationals broke up in Banilad, Cebu City.
Penini was allegedly mauled by his compatriots and was angrily looking for them. At one point, he turned his ire on a nearby taxi driver and struck his face with a rock. Mobile Patrol policemen were unable to subdue him and called in the SWAT.
TV cameras showed PO2 Bradford Lavandero and PO1 Philip James Tanza of SWAT kicking and hitting Penini with their rifles even after he sat and lay on the ground.
Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO-7), said he received a call from Camp Crame ordering an investigation into the arrest.
Garbo said the incident is being looked into by the Investigation and Detection Management Branch (IDMB) of the Cebu City police.
Cadampog of the CHR 7 said the video footage showed Penini sitting on the ground and being kicked several times by the SWAT officers. The exclusive video aired last night by ABS-CBN also showed the student curled up on the ground being given a kick.
Cadampog said the CHR is gathering witness accounts and waiting for results of the medical certificate of Penini’s injuries.
According to Supt. Orlando Ualat, chief of the directorial staff of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), police officers used “necessary force” in dealing with Penini.
The two SWAT police members were relieved from their posts and transferred to the Regional Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit of PRO-7.
They will face criminal charges under Republic Act 9745 also known as the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, accoridng to the CHR 7.
The incident occurred shortly before Sunday noon when Penini drank with compatriots near Alicia Tower in Banilad,Cebu City .
SWAT members were called in by a Cebu City mobile patrol group after Penini became unruly, looking for his companions who allegedly mauled him during their drinking binge.
Unable to find them, Penini got a rock and hit the face of Holiday taxi driver Giovanni Catib, who watched the commotion. Some SWAT officers managed to pin down Penini.
One SWAT member struck Penini with the handle of an M-16 Armalite while others kicked him while he sat on the ground.
The taxi driver also tried to attack Penini but was restrained by the police.
Police then handcuffed Penini and brought him to the Mabolo police precinct before he was moved to the Tourist Police station near Cebu City Hall. .
SWAT police said they introduced themselves as police officers and told Peninin to calm down and dispose of the rock he picked up .
They said Penini instead attacked them for which two of them suffered injuries on their right arms as they tried to restrain the student.
In their affidvit, the two SWAT policemen said the student became more aggresive after they introduced themselves as policemen.
Gatib, a Holiday Taxi driver, said he supports the police officers who defended him, and plans to file charges against Penini.
His taxi was parked near the group’s drinking session. He said some residents called up police after the Mobile Patrol Group failed to restrain Penini.
Supt. Arnel Banzon, deputy director for administration of the Cebu City police, said the TV footage disproves any denial made the two police officers about hitting Penini.
Antonio Go, a businessman who is a friend of Penini’s parents, went to the police regional director’s office to seek an investigation.
Go said he was the one who invited Penini to study in Cebu instead of Singapore.
Go, who used to stay in Papua New Guinea, said Penini was one of 29 Papua New Guineans studying e in Cebu.
Penini and another student are sons of government officials, he said.
Police charges of direct assualt were lowered to resistance to persons in authority by Asst. City Prosecutor Aida Sanchez.
Persons of authority
Sanchez said the two SWAT police officers who said they were hit by stones thrown by Penini are “not considered persons in authority.”
Direct assault charges are more appropriate because they would apply when one lays a hand on a person in authority who are on duty.
Penini was assisted by lawyer Fritz Lastimosa. He waived his right to preliminary investigation, apparently to speed up proceedings, so charges were elevated to the Municipal Trial Court in Cities. Rhea Ruth V. Rosell, Chito O. Aragon and Ador Vincent Mayol