MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights on Monday recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against 26 policemen for the bloody December 2008 shootout.
Sixteen people died in the encounter, including Alfonso de Vera and his 7-year-old daughter, who were fired upon after police mistook their vehicle as one of those being used by a warehouse robbery gang.
Those recommended to face criminal and administrative charges were Chief Inspectors Joel Mendoza and Lawrence Cajipe; Inspector Gerardo Balatucan; Police Officers 3 Jolito Mamanao Jr. and Fernando Rey Gapuz; Police Officers 2 Eduardo Blanco and Edwin Santos; and Police Officers 1 Josil Rey Lucena and Elybeer Cayaban for the arbitrary killing or summary execution of De Vera and his child. Obstruction of justice charges are also being recommended against the policemen.
Cayaban, along with Inspector Doroteo Tolentino; Senior Police Officer 1 Jayson Galimba; POs3 Arvin Ramos, Edwin Cuadra, and Jesus Pascual; PO2s Fidel Quirejero and John Idio; and PO1 Wilfredo Reyes were also recommended charged criminally and administratively for the murder of Ronaldo Eusebio, another civilian killed during the encounter.
The CHR also recommended criminal and administrative prosecution against Chief Superintendent Perfecto Palad, then head of the Highway Patrol Group (formerly Traffic Management Group); Superintendent James Cristobal; and Chief Superintendent Orlando Mabutas for obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty for failing to produce the firearms of the policemen involved in the shootout.
The CHR also recommended the filing of administrative charges against Cristobal; Chief Inspectors Michael Saturnino and Francisco Lucena III; Inspector Lito Israel; and Senior Police Officer 4 Dante Borja for gross negligence in the killing of the De Veras and 4 other civilian fatalities identified as Arnel Macalawan, Jessiery Basmayor, and Bernard Tungcab.
In its 68-page resolution, the CHR declared that “multiple human rights violations” were committed during the Parañaque shootout, including arbitrary killings, deprivation of the victims’ right to be secure in their persons, and failure to respect the right to be presumed innocent.
“After an investigation and public inquiry, the CHR had come to the conclusion that the police operation was not only an unfortunate display of police incompetence that left six innocent civilians dead, but also a show of blatant disregard for standard operating procedures, brazen police brutality and reckless disregard for human life,” said CHR Chairwoman Leila de Lima.
De Lima said that the policemen failed to secure or cordon off the area of the shootout that led to the killing of civilians.
The CHR chief told radio dzMM that copies of the resolution will be sent to the Philippine National Police, the National Police Commission, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman’s military and law enforcement unit.
She admitted that the policemen may be able to evade the recommended charges against them because the CHR is not a prosecutorial arm of the government.
She said that it will be up to the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman to decide if the policemen should be charged. With reports from ANC, Philippine Star and radio dzMM