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Manila ‘shootouts’ stick to usual script

/ 12:43 AM August 07, 2016

Paying his P800 monthly rent was always a struggle for Eric Caliclic, who lived in a shanty not even big enough for a car to fit in.

Yet if the Manila police are to be believed, the man made easy money as a drug pusher and had the means to procure a .38-caliber pistol.

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One afternoon in July, Caliclic allegedly used this gun to repulse an antidrug team from the Manila Police District. He initiated a “shootout,” the MPD later wrote, and paid the ultimate price.

The 37-year-old Caliclic ended up as one of the 33 crime suspects—23 of them tagged as drug dealers—killed in MPD operations since President Duterte took over on June 30.  In all instances, the police maintained that they had no choice but to go for the kill in self-defense.

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Recurring narratives

But the official reports of the so-called encounters have been increasingly met with skepticism from the public, if not dismissed as outright fiction by eyewitnesses and the suspects’ grieving families.

Especially since a pattern keeps emerging in these narratives, as though derived from a common “script” or a ready set of phrases, regardless of the officer who signed at the bottom.

The Inquirer last week saw 27 such MPD reports, 17 of which were about “buy-bust” operations conducted in Manila’s poorest neighborhoods. The other 10 cases were under the broad category of “anticriminality operations”—where all the suspects ended up dead just the same. There were only two operations where the lawmen were shot: One was wounded in the arm while the other was hit in the body but was saved by his bulletproof vest.

In all the buy-bust operations, the suspects always “sensed” at the last minute that they were dealing with undercover cops and thus made that instinctive self-preserving decision to draw their guns. These tense moments always followed a “consummated” drug transaction.

The cops, in turn, always “sensed imminent danger to their lives” as well. This line alone cropped up 20 times in the 27 MPD reports.

Instantaneous death

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The officers were always “constrained to retaliate” and send their targets to their “instantaneous death,” often with shots to the “chest.”

Around 5 p.m. on July 20, Caliclic was added to the growing list of characters in this now familiar storyline. A team from MPD Meisic station led by Senior Insp. Leandro Gutierrez and Insp. Edwin Samonte came for him at his shanty along Muelle de Industria Street in Binondo.

The Iloilo native was jobless at the time and had no other family member living in Manila, according to a neighbor interviewed by the Inquirer.

The neighbor maintained that there was neither a buy-bust operation nor a shootout when Caliclic was gunned down by the MPD men that Wednesday afternoon.

As the shots rang out, the neighbor recalled, the officers could be heard shouting: “Nanlalaban pa, nanlalaban pa (he keeps fighting back).”

This baffled the neighbor. “How could he be firing a gun when he didn’t even have a knife? Where would he get the money to buy a gun in the first place? His house didn’t even have power supply.”

The MPD report on Caliclic said he “traded shots” with a PO3 Barnedo. A check made by the Inquirer showed that only one wall of the shanty, on the side where Caliclic fell dead, had bullet holes. The opposite wall—the side where the officers were positioned—had no visible damage from gunshots.

The neighbor said Caliclic did take drugs but was never a pusher. “If he was making money selling drugs, how come he had yet to pay his P800 rent?”

The MPD also said Caliclic wielded a .38-caliber revolver, the type that can be bought for P10,000 at the cheapest.

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TAGS: Drugs, Eric Caliclic, Killings, Manila
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