Lawyers’ group reaches out to kin of ‘nanlaban’
LUCENA CITY — Alarmed by the spate of drug-related deaths in police operations here, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Quezon province has offered to help the victims’ families find the truth behind the killings.
“If the witnesses fear for their safety, we can refer them to the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and be placed under the witness protection program,” lawyer Rodolfo Zabella Jr., IBP Quezon president, said in a statement last week.
In a span of eight days last week, four suspected drug pushers here were slain in separate drug busts led by the police.
Police reports showed that these suspects resisted arrest and engaged policemen in shootouts (“nanlaban”).
Their families claimed that their loved ones were victims of extrajudicial killings.
“Is it natural for a person who was alone, armed only with a ‘paltik’ (homemade gun) to shoot it out with several policemen armed with better firearms?” Zabella said.
“Without prejudging any investigation on the cases, it can be readily seen that there is that pattern similar to other situations involving arrests of drug suspects,” Zabella added.
But Supt. Reydante Ariza, Lucena City police chief, dismissed accusations of wrongdoing against local policemen.
“Their words against our words,” he said.
Councilor Rey Oliver Alejandrino urged police officers to submit to an independent investigation.
“Whether or not the victims resisted arrest and they were first to fire at policemen, the fact remained that they were killed by a superior force,” Alejandrino, a human rights lawyer, said in a separate statement.
Records of the Lucena police showed that five suspected drug pushers were slain in buy-bust operations in 2016, two in 2017, and 24 from January to the second week of November this year.
From Nov. 5 to 12, four men who had surrendered to authorities following the release of a government drug watch list were killed in police operations.
They were Roldan Laviña, 32, of Barangay Kanlurang Mayao (Nov. 12); Edilberto Jubac Jr., 33, of Ibabang Dupay (Nov. 8); Neil Arangoste, 28, of Dalahican (Nov. 7); and Ramil Moreno, 49, also of Dalahican (Nov. 5).
Police reports on these incidents carried the same story: “… instead of heeding the arresting officer, the suspect suddenly drew his revolver and fired [at] the poseur-buyer but missed, forcing the backup operative to retaliate resulting [in] the death of the suspect.”
Investigators, according to these reports, recovered .38-caliber revolvers, bullet casings, marked money supposedly used in drug transactions, and sachets of “shabu” (crystal meth) from the slain men.
Geraldine, Moreno’s wife, said her husband, a fisherman, was killed in front of their house.
“When I saw him still gasping, I pleaded with the policeman to help me bring him to the hospital. But instead, one of them … shot him one more time and finished him off,” she said.
Arangoste was slain in his mother’s house by armed men who she presumed to be policemen in street clothes.
Ariza maintained that these police operations were “legitimate,” noting that the slain men, who he said were drug pushers, resisted arrest and tried to kill policemen.
Ariza said all information concerning activities of drug suspects were provided by barangay officials. “We don’t know the targets. But we were told that they were all armed and dangerous,” he said.
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