The chief of the Public Attorney's Office is doubtful that a Caloocan police officer found guilty of torturing and killing 2 teenagers during the Duterte administration's war on drugs can pay the P2 million in damages meted by the court.
A Caloocan court earlier found PO1 Jefrey Perez guilty of two separate counts of torturing Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman and of planting plastic sachets of marijuana, shabu and a revolver to make it appear that Arnaiz resisted arrest.
Aside from 2 terms of life imprisonment, the court also required Perez to pay 2 million pesos in damages to each of the heirs of Arnaiz and De Guzman, apart from the compensation they can claim under RA 7309, the law which created a Board of Claims under the DOJ for the victims of unjust imprisonment or detention and victims of violent crimes.
"This is a warning to all law enforcers to not use excessive force against civilians," PAO chief Atty. Persida Acosta told ANC's "Rundown."
"I don't think the sole accused can afford...this amount because he is no longer employed. However, there is justice here. The court recognized the rights of the victim especially, these minor children who are crying, their blood is crying for justice."
Arnaiz and De Guzman went missing on August 17, 2017.
Arnaiz’s body was later found on August 28 in a funeral parlor in Caloocan City with several gunshot wounds.
De Guzman’s body, on the other hand, was found a month later in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija with 25 stab wounds.
Police had claimed that Arnaiz, a 19-year-old former University of the Philippines student, allegedly robbed a taxi driver and was killed in a shootout when he supposedly fired at responding police officers.
But a witness, Arnold Perlada, testified that he saw a man he would later identify through TV reports as Arnaiz, alight from a police vehicle in handcuffs in the wee hours of August 18, 2017.
Arnaiz supposedly knelt in front of a police officer he identified as Perez, raised his hands and pleaded “susuko na ako” before Perez shot him three times.
Perlada also saw another cop, PO1 Ricky Arquilita, who allegedly removed Arnaiz’s handcuffs, placed a gun on one hand and fired it twice.
In its decision, the court cited Perlada’s testimony that Arquilita planted a gun on Arnaiz. And since there was conspiracy between the two, it ruled, “the act of one is the act of the other.”
The court sentenced him to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in prison.
The court also sentenced Perez to 2 terms of life imprisonment under RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act for planting 3 sachets of shabu in the backpack of Arnaiz and 2 sachets of marijuana on his right pocket, after another police officer who responded to the scene testified he did not see anything other than Arnaiz’s body, empty shells and a firearm beside him.
It ruled Perez and Arquilita “had full control of the crime scene and had all the opportunity to plant incriminating evidence” on Arnaiz’s body.
RESISTANCE FROM PNP
In her interview, Acosta confirmed there was "resistance from PNP investigators" to cooperate in the investigation since the accused were fellow law enforcers.
She added, however, that there was overwhelming evidence - both circumstantial and testimonial - that proved the guilt of the 2 law enforcers.
Acosta said the second accused, PO1 Ricky Arquilita, would have been meted the same guilty verdict had he lived through the trial.
Arquilita died of a liver ailment in the course of the trial and the cases against him were dropped, following a rule that death extinguishes a person’s criminal liability.
The PAO chief said the case was the first anti-torture case filed under the Duterte administration. She said law enforcers should be "very careful in handling the arrest of any suspect and not use unreasonable force."
The court sentenced Perez to up to 4 years and 2 months jail time for the torture of Arnaiz and reclusion perpetua for torturing De Guzman, who was then a minor.
RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act imposes the penalty of reclusion perpetua if torture is committed against children.