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NBI tags 11 Bulacan cops for killing 6 in ‘fabricated’ drug bust

/ 05:20 AM August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines— The National Bureau of Investigation has recommended the filing of charges against the former antidrug section chief of the San Jose del Monte City police in Bulacan province and 10 of his subordinates for killing six people in a “fabricated’’ antidrug operation in February.

In a complaint dated July 27 but released to the media on Wednesday, the NBI asked the Department of Justice to initiate the prosecution of Maj. Leo dela Rosa, who then headed the intelligence and drug enforcement section of the city police, and his team for kidnapping with murder and for violation of the firearms regulation law and the Dangerous Drugs Act.

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The 10 other officers facing charges are Staff Sergeants Benjie Enconado, Jayson Legaspi, Irwin Yuson and Edmund Catubay Jr.; Corporals Jay Leoncio, Herbert Hernandez, Raymond Bayan and Paul Malgapo; and Patrolmen Erwin Sabido and Rusco Madla.

Dela Rosa, who now heads the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group in Central Luzon (Region 3), declined to comment on the NBI recommendation on Wednesday, saying he had yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

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Just passing by

According to the NBI, the six victims, who were mostly not known to one another, were arrested on the night of Feb. 13 as they were passing by a house where Dela Rosa’s men had just arrested five other people in an antidrug operation.

The six—Erwin Mergal, Jim Joshua Cordero, Edmar Aspirin, Richard Salgado, and cousins Chamberlain Domingo and Chadwin Santos—were then brought to Dela Rosa’s office at the police station, where they were hogtied and blindfolded without being booked for any offense, the bureau said.

The police also brought to the station the two motorcycles used by four of the victims, and left behind the tricycle used by two others.

In the days that followed, the NBI said, the officers took the victims two at a time to a dark and secluded area on Pacolis Road in Barangay Gaya-Gaya where they were shot dead and made to appear as though they fought back in a “fabricated” buy-bust operation.

Press statements

In a press statement in February, the Bulacan police identified Mergal and Cordero as drug peddlers who were killed in a “drug sting’’ on Pacolis Road around 12:20 a.m. of Feb. 18. It added that a third suspect, a certain Egay, was able to escape on a motorcycle.

Mergal and Cordero, it said, “shot it out with the operatives while trying to escape when they sensed that they were dealing with a poseur police buyer, leaving the law enforcers no choice but to defend themselves.’’

They were also on the watch list of the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the press statement added.

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In another statement, the Bulacan police said Aspirin and a male companion were killed in a drug bust in La Poblacion I, Barangay Muzon, around 12:20 a.m. on Feb. 15.

The night before, at 10:30 p.m., Domingo and Santos, were also killed in a drug operation on Amihan Road, Barangay Tungkong Mangga, it said.

The statement described the four slain men as drug pushers.

Their “neutralization’’ was listed as one of the accomplishments that year of the Bulacan police, who gained notoriety in 2017 for having the highest number of drug suspects killed in a matter of days in pursuit of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

—With a report from Carmela Reyes-Estrope

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TAGS: fabricated drug bust, Leo dela Rosa, NBI, rogue cops
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