Senate digs into 'police torture' of slain father, son

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 22 2016 06:40 PM | Updated as of Aug 22 2016 09:24 PM

MANILA - A Senate hearing on Monday tackled two conflicting accounts on how two drug suspects died while in police custody: law enforcers said the suspects were killed in a botched jailbreak attempt while some witnesses claimed they were victims of police brutality.

A police report said Renato Bertes, and his son, JP, were arrested for drug possession in their neighborhood in Pasay City on July 6. They were shot dead inside a police station the following day after allegedly grappling for the gun of a police officer.

But JP's common-law wife, Harra Kazuo, told senators a different story during the lawmakers' investigation of President Duterte's bloody campaign against illegal drugs. 

Kazuo said three police officers, who had no search warrant, barged into their home on the night of July 6, demanding to know where JP was hiding drugs. 

She claimed that the three were the same officers who previously extorted money from their family in exchange for dropping charges against JP, whom she admitted was a former drug peddler. 

Kazuo said she previously paid the policemen P20,000 for JP's gambling case and P10,000 for his drug charges. 

But her 29-year-old partner, she claimed, was already planning to surrender to authorities and was no longer keeping drugs on the night of the raid. 

The policemen, however, allegedly kept searching for drugs -- punching the suspect in front of his 2-year-old daughter all the while. 

Kazuo, who was then six months pregnant, said one police officer even strip-searched her daughter for drugs. She said a policeman also pushed her around and threatened to shoot JP in front of their child. 

Renato, 49, then arrived home and protested the alleged beating of his son.

Kazuo, meanwhile, ran outside with her daughter to ask for help from their barangay captain, who allegedly told her that village officials could not interfere with the police raid. 

A police mobile brought her husband and father-in-law to the police's Station Against Illegal Drugs (SAID) while she tried, but failed, to have doctors examine her "traumatized" daughter. 

Kazuo said she later noticed that her wallet and cellphone went missing after the raid. 

DEAD WITHIN HOURS 

At around 10 a.m. on July 7, the Bertes men were transferred to the Pasay police station 4, where a bruised JP asked his wife to have doctors examine his injuries allegedly inflicted by policemen.

Kazuo said her husband told her, "Ipa-medical mo kami ni Papa kasi bugbog-sarado kami ni Papa." (Have us undergo medical examination, we were badly beaten.)

The next time she saw them, however, was at a morgue. Reporters told her that the men were killed while allegedly fighting off cops.

Recalling the moment she saw her lifeless husband, she said, "Nanlumo po ako kasi ang dami niyang tama, bali pa po iyung kamay niya." (I was devastated because he had many gunshot wounds, his hand was also broken.) 

An autopsy by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found that JP bore wounds in his jaw, right arm and abdomen, while Renato had wounds in his head, left chest and left shoulder. 

CHR-Metro Manila director Gilbert Boiser said it is "very unlikely" that the victims tried to seize an officer's gun because they were already incapacitated from numerous bone fractures. 

"The concerned officers committed a violation of the right against arbitrary deprivation of life and torture based on our forensic autopsy report," Boiser concluded. 

LEGAL ACTION 

Pasay police chief, Senior Superintendent Nolasco Bathan, said murder cases have been filed against two policemen involved in the killing. Administrative charges are also being prepared against them. 

Bathan also admitted that the CCTV cameras at SAID were "for monitoring only" and had no footage of the Bertes' detention. 

The official added that was his first time to hear that policemen had no arrest warrant for the father and son. "We will look into that," he promised. 

Bathan stressed that the Philippine National Police (PNP) does not condone violence against suspected criminals. 

The Bertes men are among 1,127 drug suspects killed from May 10 to August 19, according to an independent tally by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group. 

Sixty-one percent of the suspects were killed in police operations, 31 percent were murdered by unidentified assailants while eight percent were victims found away from the crime scene.

MAP, CHARTS: The Death Toll of the War on Drugs

The Senate investigation into the killings will resume at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday.