MANILA, Philippines — Leadership of the Philippine National Police called for a thorough investigation on the death of a woodchopper in Marinduque who was gunned down in front of his son by a man who allegedly identified himself as a policeman.
What happened?: According to a post by one Janmart Hernandez Lacdao on Facebook, the victim, Albert Delos Reyes, was asked by a customer to chop a fallen coconut tree left by the heavy rains in Sitio Pag-asa in Barangay Bagtingon, Buenavista town on July 30.
Delos Reyes left for the area with his 10-year-old son at around noon.
As he was chopping wood, a man who identified himself as a policeman arrived and shot him six times in the back.
Delos Reyes died instantly.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
‘Let the investigation run its course’: As he has in similar cases, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, appealed to the public to let the investigation take its course before making conclusions on the incident until the final report and recommendation are done.
In a release sent to reporters, Eleazar said that he ordered Police Brig. Gen. Nelson Bondoc, the regional director of the PNP’s Mimaropa office, to ensure the safety of the 10-year old son of Delos Reyes who could be a potential witness in the killing.
Eleazar said police should first verify if the suspect is indeed a policeman, adding that he should be held accountable for the incident if he is an officer of the law.
“We have never allowed and covered up the abuse of our countrymen from our ranks. If the police really did it, the family can hope that we will hold him accountable,” said Eleazar.
“Right now, I am asking to let the investigation takes its course,” he said, adding that he would personally monitor the progress of the investigation.
‘Right to life’: Lacdao slammed the ‘nanlaban’ narrative typically used by cops to justify killings.
“Paano mo masasabing nanlaban at nagkaroon ng kumusyon kung ang tama ay likod at batok? Limang tama ng baril talagang hindi bubuhayin,” Lacdao’s post, which has since gone viral on social media, said.
(How can you say he ‘fought back’ and had a commotion if the right one was back and neck? Five gunshot wounds meant he really won’t be revived.)
“The policeman who is supposed to protect the people kept silent. You don’t shoot to kill anyone in front of his child who doesn’t know what’s happening. You shouldn’t be a policeman.”
Even the Department of Justice has found that weapons recovered from those killed in the operations were not examined to check the police narrative that suspects violently resisted arrest.
Just last Monday, two activists in Albay were shot dead after the two were found spraying protest graffiti on a wall. Cops claimed they were armed and fought back. Rights groups said they didn’t need guns to spray protest art.
Lacdao on social media called on Eleazar to act on the incident, joining Delos Reyes’ family in calling for justice.
“He is the president… But he doesn’t own us and we are not robots who have to follow every word he says,” Lacdao said in his post.
“We are human beings who have the right to live our lives…we decide for ourselves, not him.”
‘Nanlaban’: Later Sunday, Police Brig. Gen. Nelson Bondoc, regional director of the Police Regional Office Mimaropa, claimed responsibility for the killing.
Citing a report from the Marinduque Police Provincial Office, Bondoc said that the team led by Police Cpl. Jay Anthony Custodio of the Buenavista Municipal Police Station was out conducting “anti-illegal logging operations” at Sitio Pag-Asa when they encountered Delos Reyes.
“Upon arrival of the team thereat, they saw actual cutting of coconut trees,” he claimed.
The cops proceeded to accost the “suspects,” who fled the scene and prompted the police to chase them.
Delos Reyes was eventually caught, the police report said, but he “was armed with an approximately 12 inches bolo.”
“Instead of surrendering, he allegedly attacked PCPL Custodio with his bolo which prompted the police officer to shoot him upon sensing that his life was rhen in imminent danger,” the report read.
Police went as far as claiming that Custodio had “survived the attack.”
Inconsistencies: This runs counter to the family’s claim that Delos Reyes, a woodcutter, was there to cut a tree that had already been felled by the recent storms.
The man’s family also said earlier that his gunshot wounds were all on his back and neck. Videos posted by Lacdao confirms this, as the wounds can clearly be seen on the back of Delos Reyes’ corpse.
The report also makes no mention of Delos Reyes’ 10-year-old son who witnessed the shooting.
Eleazar earlier urged the public to allow police to verify first if the suspect involved was indeed a police officer. He has so far not issued a statement on the new findings.
What happens now?: Bondoc said that an investigating team has since been created to “determine if there are lapses committed by operating personnel of Buenavista MPS as well as the officer in charge.”
He added that Custodio’s service firearm was already turned over to the Marinduque Provincial Crime Lab Office for ballistic examination and paraffin test.
Delos Reyes’ son is currently under the custody of the Buenavista Municipal Social Welfare and Development office.
Meanwhile, other personnel of the Buenavista Municipal Police Station — where Custodio himself was stationed — have been “deployed to provide security to the family of the victim.”
Police Capt. Ramil Razom, medico-legal officer of the PRO-Mimaropa, will conduct an autopsy of the cadaver on Monday.
Bondoc vowed that he “will personally supervise the investigation and will not tolerate the lapses committed by the said police officer if evidence warrants.”
What do the PNP’s rules say?: Rules 7.4 and 7.5 of the PNP Operational Procedures hold that:
When suspect is violent or threatening, and that less physical measures have been tried and deemed inappropriate, a more extreme, but non-deadly measure can be used such as baton/truncheon, pepper spray, stun gun and other nonlethal weapon to bring the suspect under control, or effect an arrest. During confrontation with an armed offender, only such necessary and reasonable force should be applied as would be sufficient to overcome the resistance put up by the offender; subdue the clear and imminent danger posed by him; or to justify the force/act under the principles of self defense, defense of relative, or defense of stranger.
Rule 7.6 reads:
A police officer, however, is not required to afford offender/s attacking him the opportunity for a fair or equal struggle. The reasonableness of the force employed will depend upon the number of aggressors, nature and characteristic of the weapon used, physical condition, size and other circumstances to include the place and occasion of the assault. The police officer is given the sound discretion to consider these factors in employing reasonable force.
Rule 7.2 of the police manual also directs officers to “first issue a verbal warning” before resorting to force, but also says that failure to give a verbal warning is excusable “where threat to life or property is already imminent” and cops are given no choice.
Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan. With a report from Philstar