MANILA – Did cops shoot dead an innocent foundation scholar and his cousin in their sleep during an anti-illegal drug operation in Manila?
This was the question raised by Manila-based non-government organization Kaibigan Foundation which lamented the death of one its beneficiaries, 20-year-old Jefferson Bunuan.
In a Facebook post that is starting to get viral, Kaibigan Foundation raised alarm over what it believes was the extrajudicial killing of Bunuan and two others.
The foundation said the police were looking for a suspected drug dealer named Jomar ''Totong'' Manaois, who apparently went inside the house where Jefferson and his cousin Mark Anthony were supposedly sleeping.
When policemen caught sight of Manaois, they fired shots that resulted in the deaths of Manaois and the Bunuans. The police claim they fired shots because the three attempted to shoot them.
Police said they also found drug paraphernalia inside the house.
But the foundation is denying the police's claim.
''Jeff and Mark were sleeping in Totong’s house that time. It was because there was no space in their house since Jeff’s sister just gave birth,'' the foundation said.
The foundation said Jefferson's sister, Lovely, denied the police's claim that the three were armed.
''According to Lovely, she talked to the three girls who were inside the house before the incident occurred. She was told that Jeff and Mark were in fact sleeping at that very moment. Supt. Domingo also said that there was a gunfight, but the three girls said that they heard Totong (being the only one awake that time) surrendered and told the policemen not to implicate his two friends,'' the foundation said.
''The three girls also told Lovely that before the said buy-bust operation, the policemen ordered them to get out of the house because they will conduct an investigation. The girls followed their orders while Totong remained inside and the other two victims were still sleeping. Policemen immediately entered the house and in just a few seconds, they heard Totong surrendering, followed by 7 gunshots."
The foundation doubted allegations that Jefferson was a ''runner'' of illegal drugs, saying the the latter had been devoted to his studies and in fact wanted to become a policeman.
''Jefferson is a sponsored child of the foundation for 11 years. As described by Kaibigan staff, Jefferson is polite, soft-spoken, and has shown determination to finish his studies despite experiencing life difficulties. He was in fact a graduate of welding course last year and continued his studies in criminology,'' the foundation said.
''This is the reason why Kaibigan was so shocked upon hearing the news that he, along with other two suspected drug pusher, was killed in allegedly buy-bust operation in Sta. Ana, Manila."
The foundation also raised doubts that the three indeed tried to fight the police.
"The... position of Totong signifies that he probably fell down backwards when he was shot from his surrendering position. This is all contradicting to the statements of the policemen that the group initiated the gunfight and a buy-bust operation was happening," the foundation said.
President Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election on a vow to end the illegal drug menace in Philippine society.
''It would be bloody,'' Duterte said of his presidency months before he won the election.
And indeed it has been bloody.
Based on ABS-CBN Investigate and Research Group's monitoring of national and local news reports, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office press releases, there have been 505 deaths from May 10 to July 20.
Several administration critics and human rights advocates have called on Duterte to stop the rise of killings during police operations.
Duterte's hard talk on illegal drugs and crime, however, seemed to have also emboldened operatives, vigilantes and other criminals.
Based on ABS-CBN data, 122 of the 505 people killed were silenced by unidentified gunmen, while another 44 were considered victims of summary executions.
MAP, CHARTS: The Death Toll of the War on Drugs