CHR: Sue Albay cops over 2019 deaths of drug suspects
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Bicol has urged the National Police Commission (Napolcom) regional office here to file administrative and criminal cases against four members of the Daraga town police who were allegedly involved in the killing of three suspected drug traders during a buy-bust operation in February 2019.
In a resolution issued on March 10, lawyer Arlene Alangco, director of the CHR in Bicol, said their office found that the four officers of Daraga police station “committed human rights violations and abuses” during the implementation of “Oplan Tokhang.”
Tokhang, coined from the Visayan words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (persuade), is a police operation that seeks out illegal drug traders and asks them to turn their backs on their criminal activities. It is part of “Oplan Double Barrel,” the blueprint of the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.
Facing administrative and murder complaints were Police Lt. Linus Dominic Lopez, Police Master Sergeant Evan Orayan, and Police Corporals Christian Verdillo and Annaliza Casulla.
According to the CHR investigation, which was led by lawyer Laurain Ampongan-Marcaida, the police officers failed to strictly comply with the rules on engagements and operational guidelines in line with the provisions of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
It said the Daraga police station was “noncooperative” in providing the CHR with the police official investigation reports, the ballistic examination report, receipt and inventory of evidence seized from the scene of the crime operatives.
The suspects also reportedly failed to comply with the three-witness rule that is required during the inventory and the time of the warrantless arrest, “which could be an opportunity for law enforcers to plant evidence against the suspects,” the CHR said.
On Feb. 22, 2019, Pedrito Marco Tibay, 35; Pete John Carlo Rima, 35; and Jeruh Salem Catubig, 37, were killed by police operatives in a drug sting at Barangay Binitayan in Daraga.
Tibay was No. 1 on the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency watchlist of drug suspects in Daraga, while Catubig was ranked eighth.
The initial police report at that time said one of the suspects pulled out his .38-caliber handgun and fired at the police team when they sensed that it was a sting operation, forcing the operatives to retaliate.
Rima sustained multiple gunshot wounds and bore gunpowder burns, indicating he was shot at close range.
At an earlier press briefing, Reynaldo Matocinos, CHR special investigator 2, said the agency’s initial investigation showed there could have been an “overkill” after the autopsy report showed that Rima sustained 14 bullet wounds to his body, while Rima’s companion suffered two bullet wounds to their body.
Matocinos said the agency was stepping into the case, suspecting that the victims’ human rights were violated.
Police allegedly seized P100,000 worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) in 10 plastic sachets and three .38-caliber pistols.
The CHR said “excessive force” was used by policemen during the drug operation.
Rima’s father, Carmelo, a veteran journalist, had also asked the CHR and the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an in-depth investigation into the killing of his son and his two companions.
The Napolcom has yet to comment on the CHR’s findings, while the four suspects were given 10 days to file a motion.
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