Judge acquits lone survivor of drug raid that left 5 dead
Standing up against the Quezon City policemen who accused him of fighting back or “nanlaban,” the lone survivor of a deadly antidrug operation that left five men dead in August last year has been acquitted by a Quezon City court.
Judge Analie Oga-Brual of the QC Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 41 ruled for the acquittal of Harold Arevalo, saying the prosecution failed to support the charge of direct assault that the police filed against the vendor.
In a Nov. 17 decision, the court said the prosecution “failed to positively show” that Arevalo traded shots with the policemen who had killed his friends in a “buybust operation” on Aug. 15 at a house on Lower Sampaguita Extension, Barangay Payatas A.
“There was even no showing that the accused was the one whom they have transacted with prior to the incident,” the ruling said.
Members of Quezon City Police District’s Batasan station, particularly Police Officers 2 Wilson Escuro and Herbert Angoluan, claimed that they conducted the operation in Barangay Payatas A based on tip that drugs were being sold in the area.
They said Arevalo was with the group of suspects they encountered and who fired shots when cornered.
Police report disputed
But Arevalo, who managed to post bail after his arrest, disputed the report from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on the supposed drug bust.
In his defense, Arevalo said that at the time of the operation he was just a guest at the house of his friend Cherwen Polo, who was then celebrating his birthday. They were having drinks on the second floor with fellow construction workers William Bordeos, Darwin Hamoy and another man only known as “Rambo.”
A few minutes after midnight, armed men in civilian clothes barged into Polo’s house. Arevalo, who was upstairs with the other guests, started hearing gunshots.
With Polo telling him to escape, Arevalo leaped out of the second-floor window and landed on the neighbor’s roof.
But one of the officers managed to shoot him, hitting him in the left leg. Immobilized, Arevalo just let his body roll over and fall from the roof.
“This would prove that I have no intention to hurt any police officer and commit direct assault,” Arevalo said in his judicial affidavit. “I saw (the one) who shot me and he was in civilian clothes. But he was not able to get near me because I had already fallen to the ground [from the roof] and fainted.”
“I really didn’t know what happened because at that time I was only visiting a friend (Polo) and I just heard him telling me, tumakbo ka na! (run!)” he later said during cross-examination.
He recalled regaining consciousness in an empty lot. He then asked for help from uniformed policemen he saw nearby, and pretended that he was unaware of the raid on Polo’s house.
But he was placed under arrest while receiving treatment at East Avenue Medical Center, the same hospital where Polo was declared dead on arrival. Bordeos, Hamoy and Rambo were pronounced dead at Quezon City General Hospital.
The QCPD report said there was a fifth suspect—a John Doe—who was killed in the same operation. In earlier Inquirer interviews, the slain suspects’ relatives could not identify this fifth fatality and doubted whether he was really present at the drinking session.
Arevalo maintained he was not aware that the men who entered Polo’s home and declared a raid were policemen because they were not in uniform. “There was a raid inside that house because the people who lived there allegedly used drugs.”
In its decision, the court noted that police officers Escuro and Angoluan admitted during cross-examination that they did not see Arevalo holding a gun or firing back at them during the raid.
“Assuming arguendo that accused is one of the cohorts of those five deceased suspects, that does not exempt the prosecution (from proving) clearly his participation in the alleged firefight that they had prior to their death,” Judge Brual said.
Arevalo, who had since moved out of Payatas, was represented in court by lawyer Ann Marie Loren Pastor of the Public Attorney’s Office.
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