Lawyer hits DOJ credit grab in drug war case | Inquirer News

Lawyer hits DOJ credit grab in drug war case

/ 05:48 AM June 21, 2024

Lawyer hits DOJ credit grab in drug war case

DRUG-RELATED An immediate family member of Luis Bonifacio (left photo) and his son Gabriel Lois, who were killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, filed a murder case in the Office of the Ombudsman against police officers involved in the killings. —LYN RILLON

Human rights lawyer Kristina Conti on Thursday called out the Department of Justice (DOJ) for trying to grab credit for the conviction of four police officers in the killing of a father and son in an anti-drug operation in 2016.

“With due respect to [Justice] Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and government lawyers, no real credit is due them,” said Conti, the private prosecutor in the case and Metro Manila secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).


In a statement, she pointed out that NUPL built up and prosecuted the case as private prosecutors without any DOJ assistance, “contrary to the posturing of the Department of Justice.”


READ: ‘Drug war’ study: EJK cases hardly probed

The case involved the killing of Luis Bonifacio and his son, Gabriel Lois Bonifacio, in their home on Sept. 15, 2016, purportedly in an anti-drug operation.

On Tuesday, Caloocan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Ma. Rowena Alejandria convicted Police Master Sgt. Virgilio Servantes and Police Corporals Arnel de Guzman, Johnston Alacre, and Argemio Saguros Jr. of killing the Bonifacios.

Lauding the RTC conviction, a DOJ statement quoted Remulla as citing the decision as a “milestone” and “clear proof of a functioning justice system.” He also commended state prosecutors for “successfully securing the conviction” in the case.

However, Conti said the Caloocan City prosecutor did not really participate in the prosecution of the case and even testified in defense of the accused.

“Caloocan Deputy City Prosecutor Darwin Cañete said he had been summoned to the site in 2016 and then issued a report stating that ‘the family of the deceased [were] unwilling to cooperate on filing a complaint,’” she added.


The widow of Bonifacio, Mary Ann Domingo, originally filed a murder complaint in 2017, but the four policemen were only charged with homicide.

“By some cruel twist of fate, when this case got to court in 2021, [Cañete] was the assigned trial prosecutor. NUPL-NCR asked for and was granted authority as private prosecutors, trying this case on our own,” Conti said.

Speaking for her client, Conti told the Inquirer that it was “painful” and “mortifying” for Domingo that Cañete reported that she was “unwilling to cooperate in filing a complaint” when she was never even consulted.

Four so far

For its part, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) lauded the conviction.

“We acknowledge the court’s decision as a significant step toward achieving justice and accountability for the victims of human rights violations in relation to the anti-drug campaign of the previous administration,” it said.

The CHR also expressed its support for the ongoing investigation of the House of Representatives on the alleged human rights violations under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

The case of the Bonifacios gained attention, even that of Remulla because it was only the fourth time a case arising from Duterte’s deadly anti-drug war was successfully prosecuted in court.

READ: Compensation for acts of injustice

The only other conviction arose from the killing of slain teenagers Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and Reynaldo de Guzman, who were found to have been murdered by three police officers, also in Caloocan City, in 2017.

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However, another police officer, then Chief Superintendent Roberto Fajardo, who was excluded from the Kian delos Santos case, was reinstated and promoted by Duterte a year after his relief from the Caloocan City police. —WITH A REPORT FROM JACOB LAZARO

TAGS: DoJ, Drug war, Police

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