MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed its earlier ruling finding probable cause to file homicide charges against cops involved in the killing of a father and son inside their home in Caloocan in 2016.
Citing no newly discovered evidence or errors of law, the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) junked the motions for reconsideration filed by both respondents and complainant over a January 2020 ruling which recommended filing of a homicide charge against four cops.
Police claimed Luis Bonifacio and son Gabriel Lois resisted arrest, leading to their death in an anti-drug operation on September 15, 2016.
But Luis’ wife and Gabriel’s mother, Marry Ann Domingo, said police barged into their house at 12:30 a.m., ordered her and her 3 children out of the house, while Luis was on his knees and Gabriel begged the police not to hurt his father.
Not long after, she heard gunshots from inside their house — her husband and child killed by multiple gunshots, based on hospital records.
Domingo filed complaints for murder and robbery before the Ombudsman against 20 police personnel, aside from administrative charges of grave abuse of authority, conduct unbecoming of a public officer and grave misconduct.
In January 2020, MOLEO dismissed the murder and homicide charges against the cops and instead found probable cause to charge 4 police officers with 2 counts of homicide.
Police Master Sgt. Virgilio Cervantes, Cpl. Arnel De Guzman, Cpl. Johnston Alacre, and Cpl. Artemio Saguros, Jr. were found to have fired at Luis and Gabriel, claiming it as an act of self-defense.
But the Deputy Ombudsman MOLEO rejected their claim, saying they failed to prove that there was a prior unlawful or unprovoked attack.
It noted, no photograph of any slug mark was taken from the crime scene and the sheer number of wounds on the vital parts of the victims negates the claim of self-defense.
Affirming this ruling, the Deputy Ombudsman MOLEO, in a March 8 joint order, denied the plea for reconsideration of the Cervantes group.
“By their admission and the physical evidence on record, such as the multiple gunshot wounds inflicted on Luis and Gabriel, it clearly appears that their action was not merely a call of self-preservation but a determined effort to kill the latter,” it said, stressing that killing an offender should be used only as a last resort.
“The law does not clothe police officers with authority to arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill. It may be true that police officers sometimes find themselves in a dilemma when pressured by a situation where an immediate and decisive, but legal, action is needed,” it said.
“However, it must be stressed that the judgment and discretion of police officers in the performance of their duties must be exercised neither capriciously nor oppressively, but within reasonable limits. In the absence of a clear and legal provision to the contrary, they must act in conformity with the dictates of a sound discretion, and within the spirit and purpose of the law,” it added.
The MOLEO however stood by its earlier ruling that there was no murder involved in the absence of any circumstance that would qualify homicide as murder, denying Domingo’s motion for reconsideration.
In addition to the homicide charge, the 4 were also found administratively liable for grave misconduct and were suspended for 1 year without pay for inflicting “excessive and fatal injuries” on the father and son.
Meanwhile, 5 other policemen were suspended for 1 month without pay after having been found guilty of simple neglect of duty.
Police Sr. Insp. Avelino Andaya, Sr. Sgt. Edgard Manapat, Sr. Sgt. Reymel Villanueva, Sr. Sgt. Harold Jake Dela Rosa and Patrolman Aldrin Matthew Matinig failed to conduct a thorough crime scene investigation, according to the MOLEO.
“While they each disown liability, they however point to one another as the one responsible in the investigation of the incident,” the MOLEO said in denying their motion for reconsideration.
“This circumstance manifestly shows their lack of coordination which signifies failure to give proper attention to a task expected of them as investigators which apparently resulted to an incomplete and unsatisfactory crime scene investigation,” it added.
The administrative complaint against 11 others was dismissed.