Drug war details out: Probe shatters cops ‘nanlaban’ narratives in 52 cases
MANILA, Philippines—In 2016, a female drug suspect was killed after an alleged firefight with police officers during a buy-bust operation. An investigation later revealed that Jessica Albaran had not even held a firearm.
The case of Albaran was one of 52 that were turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for further investigation and case building up and for possible criminal charges to be filed against police officers involved.
In the 20-page report released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, all the suspects in the 52 cases are “nanlaban,” meaning they tried to fight the police during an arrest or attempted to flee after being arrested.
Of the 52, one case only resulted in wounding the suspect.
Out of 52 cases, 32 revealed that the police failed to conduct a paraffin test or that documents such as operations reports, ballistic examination results, chain of custody reports, autopsy reports, and death certificates were missing.
In one instance, the police failed to turn over the firearm used by the drug suspect. In another case, the police turned over the confiscated drugs.
In 11 cases, the suspects tested negative in the paraffin test, meaning they did not fire a gun, while in two instances, the police examined the firearm but not the suspects.
In the case of Spanish national Diego Lafuente, the police said the suspect drew his firearm from his beltbag and fired at the police officers. But Lafuente is not shown to have a beltbag, based on the pictures taken of him.
In another case, the victim Romeo A. Castillo Jr. who was killed in 2019, allegedly used a handgun to fire at police officers during a buy-bust operation. However, the paraffin test showed he was negative of gunpowder nitrates and no handgun was included in the list of items found in Castillo’s possession.
In one of the 52 cases, the supposed drug suspect was not of sound mind, and some were unrelated to drugs.
UP student Carl Angelo Arnaiz case
Of the 52 cases, only one has reached court. This was the case of 19-year old University of the Philippines student Carl Angelo Arnaiz.
Arnaiz, from Cainta, went out with his 14-year old friend Reynaldo “kulot” de Guzman to buy a midnight snack. Arnaiz went missing for 10-days. His body was found at a morgue in Caloocan while de Guzman’s remains were found in a creek in Nueva Ecija. He sustained multiple stab wounds and his head was wrapped in packing tape.
Based on the taxi driver’s testimony, the supposed robbery victim of Arnaiz, the 19-year-old student, was killed “execution-style. Another eyewitness corroborated the testimony of the cab driver.
According to the Public Attorneys’ Office, the murder case against the police officers has been refiled in Navotas while the torture and planting of evidence cases remain in the Caloocan Court. One of the accused police officers died in detention.
Penalties of police officers
In some instances, police operatives failed to appear at formal hearings or refute charges against them.
But in the case of police operatives involved in the death of Bryan Alegre from Laguna, they gave conflicting statements —in their “sinumpaang salaysay” (sworn affidavit), they said that they seized shabu from the suspect. However, in their joint counter-affidavit, what was taken was marijuana, not shabu. Police operatives, in this case, received a 90-day suspension.
The majority of the over 150 police officers involved in the 52 cases have been suspended, with the shortest suspension being 31 days and the longest six months.
Very few of them have been demoted or fired.
Only two criminal cases were recommended.
This is the first time that the DOJ has released details of drug-related cases that they are reviewing.