MANILAA Caloocan regional trial court convicted on Thursday three Caloocan policemen for the killing of minor Kian Loyd de los Santos, who was allegedly a drug suspect, during a buy-bust operation two years ago.
In a 35-page decision, Caloocan RTC Branch 125 Presiding Judge Rodolfo Azucena Jr. found Police Officer 3 (PO3) Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz guilty of the murder of then 17-year old de los Santos and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua.
The three policemen were also directed to pay the heirs of de los Santos PHP100,000 as civil indemnity; PHP100,000 as moral damages; PHP45,000 as actual damages; and PHP100,000 as exemplary damages.
The court, however, acquitted the three of illegal drugs charges and planting of evidence, saying the prosecution failed to prove their guilt on these aspects.
Meanwhile, Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the prosecution of the case belies the administration critics' claims against MalacaAang.
"This conviction debunks the myth that there is a culture of impunity in the government's war against drugs," Guevarra told reporters.
(I am) not sure if this is the first conviction but what I can say is that we will continue to dispense justice, and let the hammer fall where it should be, Guevarra said.
"The conviction serves as a warning to our law enforcers that in the government's campaign against illegal drugs, the rule of law and due process must always be observed," he added.
Guevarra said the conviction should not deter law enforcement agencies from "vigorously pursuing the anti-illegal drug campaign", saying that the "greater majority" follow the proper legal procedures in performing their duties.
The court also archived the case against police asset Renato Loveras pending his arrest, who pinpointed to de los Santos as drug pusher. An alias warrant has been issued against him by the court.
The DOJ noted that eyewitnesses saw the victim talking with the policemen before he was dragged near the Tullahan River, where he was shot dead. The panel noted the absence of gunpowder nitrates on the hands of de los Santos, disproving the allegation that he fired shots at the policemen.
Likewise, the panel pointed out that based on the forensics reports provided by the Philippine National Police and the Public Attorney's Office, the bullet entries and trajectories indicated that the victim was shot at close range.
The handgun allegedly belonging to Kian was found on his left hand, which runs counter to witnesses' account that he is actually right-handed.
The panel dismissed the claim that it was their asset who was being dragged by Pereda and Cruz and not de los Santos, as captured on the CCTV footage.
The panel said several witnesses have testified that it was de los Santos who was on the CCTV, based on what he was wearing at the time he was killed.
The DOJ, on the other hand, found no probable cause to file criminal charges against 13 other policemen earlier named as co-respondents in the case.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is respecting the decision of the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court, convicting three Caloocan policemen for the death of de los Santos.
PNP Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, said the PNP respects the ruling of judicial authorities that found three Caloocan cops guilty of murder.
He said the early resolution of the case is a clear indication that the justice system works in the country and the PNP stands ready to help ensure that justice will always be served to everyone.
We recognize though that our justice system serves the interest of both the victim and the accused. Hence, despite the conviction, we understand that legal remedies can still be sought by either of the party since the principle of due process works both ways,Albayalde said.
He noted the case can serve as a reminder for the rest of PNP personnel to be extra diligent in fulfilling the requirements of the law.
We will be equally resolute in standing behind our front-line personnel toiling in this war while fully upholding the constitutional rights of everyone, he added. (With reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency