MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Luis Bonifacio was on his knees, his hands held in the air. “Sir, magbibihis lang po ako (let me put on my clothes),” he told the cops who barged into the 2nd story of a small house in Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City to search for illegal drugs.
He was ready to be arrested but was shot instead as his family climbed down the stairs upon orders of the police.
Their son Gabriel Louis was killed, too, because he wouldn’t leave his father alone with the cops. As the bodies were taken by the police before the break of dawn, the family was left to clean the bloodstains.
His wife sobbed as she recalled her last glimpse of Bonifacio alive.
It happened at 1:30 am on September 15, 2016. Father and son joined the list of thousands killed in the name of President Rodrigo Duterte’s continuing war on drugs.
Six months later, on March 14, the widow mustered enough courage to file murder charges against the cops before the Office of the Ombudsman. But she covered her head with a black cloth and requested that her name not be mentioned in media reports.
The police report has a different version of events. It was recorded as a buy-bust operation gone wrong, a familiar story of victims getting killed because they supposedly resisted arrest. (READ: Police chief says all criminals are liars)
“The suspects, after sensing that they were dealing with police officers, immediately drew their firearms and successively fired shots onto operatives…prompting the lawmen to return fire at the duo in order to prevent and repel their unlawful aggression,” said the police report.
They were rushed to the hospital but were declared dead on arrival. A gun, bullets, and illegal drugs were also reportedly found in the house.
But it was clearly a rubout, according to lawyer Kristina Conti of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL). She said they secured the testimonies of the neighbors.
“It’s not a buy-bust. Ang pamilya at kapit-bahay, ‘yun ang pinapanindigan nilang kuwento. Ang biktima ay nagmamakaawa. Ang anak, sabi, ‘Papa ko po ‘yan.’ Anong nangyari? Nadamay ang anak kasi ayaw niya iwan,” Conti said.
(The family and the neighbors stand by their story. The victim was begging for his life. The son was heard saying, “That’s my father.” What happened? He was killed because he didn’t want to leave his father.)
Worse, Luis Bonifacio may have been mistaken for his brother Luisito who was No. 6 in the Caloocan police drugs list.
“Paglabas ng police report, Luisito daw ang pinatay nila. No. 6 doon sa TokHang list, sa drugs list ng barangay. E ang sabi ni nanay, “Hindi naman Luisito ang pangalan ng asawa ko, kundi Luis.” Nagkaproblema nga siya ilabas ang katawan. Sino ba ang namatay? Si Luis o si Luisito?” said Conti.
(According to the police report, a certain Luisito was killed. He’s No. 6 on the TokHang list, the village’s drug list. But the mother said, “My husband’s name is not Luisito but Luis.” She even had a problem getting her husband’s body from the hospital. Who died? Was it Luis or Luisito?)
In a curious coincidence, the main suspect is the President’s namesake. Police Superintendent Ali Jose Duterte, chief of the police District Special Operations Unit (DSOU), was identified in a police report as having led what was recorded to be a buy-bust operation gone wrong.
Duterte and his men are facing two counts of murder and administrative complaints – gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, gross oppression, and conduct unbecoming of a public officer.
Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said lawsuits are part of the risks that cops face and they will be ready to defend themselves in the courts. “Let’s leave it to the courts how they are going to handle the cases. Let’s see,” Dela Rosa said.
Bonifacio’s widow said they are afraid. But she feels it’s also their responsibility to come forward.
“Takot pa rin ang nananaig sa akin. Kaya lang sa ngayon, kaya po ako, lumakas ang loob ko na humarap dito at magsampa hindi lang laban sa extrajudicial killing. Para sa mga mahihirap na may karapatang magbago pa. Hindi dapat patayin na lang basta-basta,” the widow said.
(I’m still afraid. But for now, I found the courage to come out and file charges because we’re not only fighting extrajudicial killings. We are doing this for the poor who also have the right to mend their ways. They shouldn’t be killed just like that.)
Conti, the volunteer lawyer, admitted Bonifacio was previously a drug user but has already stopped.
Outside the Office of the Ombudsman, a protest rally was held to condemn the killings. The war on drugs has become a war on the poor, according to the speakers.
NUPL has collaborated with Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a coalition of church-based groups led by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
“Maawa na po kayo, President Duterte. Itigil niyo na ang pagpapapatay na yan (Have mercy, President Duterte. Please stop the killings),” said a woman introducing herself as belonging to an urban poor organization.
“In the name of the major superiors of the Philippines, kami po ay tutol sa (we are opposing) the war on drugs. Ang nagbabayad ay mga mahihirap (It’s the poor who are made to pay),” a nun said, also taking the microphone.
Fear has driven many into silence. But one family has stepped forward to help begin a quest for justice. – Rappler.com