Dismissal of murder raps vs drug war cops only necessitates ICC probe — Centerlaw

Dismissal of murder raps vs drug war cops only necessitates ICC probe — Centerlaw

In this Sept. 6, 2016 photo, policemen check the gun recovered from one of two unidentified drug suspects after they were shot dead by police as they tried to evade a checkpoint in Quezon City. Bodies had begun turning up in cities all over the Philippines ever since President Rodrigo Duterte launched a controversial war on drugs. File photo / AP

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of Ombudsman’s dismissal of murder and frustrated murder charges against four Quezon City police officers whose drug war operations led to the death of four individuals only necessitates the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe, rights advocate group Centerlaw said on Thursday.

Centerlaw was referring to the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss murder, frustrated murder, robbery, and planting of evidence complaints against then Police S/Insp. Emil Garcia, Police Officer 3 Allan Formilleza, PO1 James Aggarao and PO1 Melchor Navisaga, all of the Quezon City Police District accused of launching the operation in Barangay Payatas last August 2016.

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READ: Ombudsman junks raps vs 4 cops in 2016 Payatas anti-drug operation 

Four individuals suspected of involvement in the drug trade were killed in the operation while the fifth suspect, Efren Morillo, played dead to escape.  Morillo and the dead individuals’ relatives claimed that the drug suspects were summarily executed, and that evidence was planted by the police.

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“The dismissal of charges by the Ombudsman also reinforces the necessity for the International Criminal Court to exercise its jurisdiction in order to prosecute the masterminds behind the thousands of extrajudicial killings during the Duterte years,” Centerlaw said, referring to former president Rodrigo Duterte who pushed for the drug war.

“Centerlaw laments the fact that while the Ombudsman acknowledged the deaths of the victims in the hands of the policemen, and notwithstanding very clear irregularities in the police operations, and glaring inconsistencies in the policemen’s sworn statements, it still cleared the respondent-police officers not only of criminal liability but also of administrative liability,” the group claimed.

ICC on Tuesday just turned down the Philippine government’s bid to stop an investigation of Duterte’s drug war.  Several groups, during the past administration, filed complaints before ICC on behalf of families, accusing Duterte and his officers of committing the crime against humanity of mass murder.

READ: ICC junks PH plea to stop probe into deaths linked to war vs. drugs 

President Ferdinand Marcos however has repeatedly stated that the ICC is only welcome to do a probe in the Philippines if the country’s judicial system collapses or if war occurs.

Last March 2023, the Chief Executive said that the country would essentially disengage after the ICC rejected their appeal to suspend the drug war probe.

READ: Marcos: PH ‘essentially disengaging’ from ICC after ‘failed’ appeal to defer ‘drug war’ probe 

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READ: Marcos: ICC welcome only if ‘system collapses’ or ‘we have war’ 

Centerlaw also lamented that the Ombudsman resolution disregarded testimonies by physicians that Morillo, the survivor, was shot by a standing police officer while he was sitting, based on his bullet wounds.

They also claimed that the dismissal of complaints went against court decisions — particularly a Quezon City court acquitting Morillo from claims that he attacked the police officers involved.

“The Ombudsman dismissed the charges against the policemen despite two previous court decisions that supported the complainants’ narratives of the incident. In 2017, the Supreme Court granted a petition for the writ of amparo filed by the victims’ families, prohibiting policemen from approaching within a one kilometer radius from the workplace and residences of the victims’ families,” Centerlaw said.

“Early this year, the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City acquitted Mr. Morillo of direct assault charges filed by the same policemen, where they accused Morillo of firing against them (nanlaban). The MTC cited irregularities and inconsistencies in the operations, reports, and narratives of the policemen involved,” it added.

It could be remembered that last March 17, Morillo was acquitted from complaints that he attacked the responding police officers.  According to the cops’ version of the story, they visited the house of Marcelo Daa Jr., as part of Oplan Tokhang, the Philippine National Police (PNP) anti-illegal drug drive.

Police said upon reaching the area, Daa’s aunt pointed them at a place where drug addicts were supposedly hiding.  They then introduced themselves, but Morillo and his companions supposedly shot at them, with Morillo saying that “hindi kami magpapahuli ng buhay [You’ll never going to get us alive]!”

However, the Quezon City court said the prosecution — in this case, the side of the police officers — failed to prove

READ: QC court acquits ‘Tokhang’ survivor of attacking policemen 

READ: QC court acquits drug war survivor, junks cops’ ‘nanlaban’ claim 

Centerlaw said that they will support efforts of the bereaved families to continue fighting for justice.

“Centerlaw supports efforts of the victims’ families to continue the fight for justice as they urge the Ombudsman to reconsider its decision. The families will exhaust all remedies all the way to the Supreme Court,” Centerlaw said.

JPV


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