How Genesis Argoncillo died, according to fellow detainees

Rambo Talabong

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How Genesis Argoncillo died, according to fellow detainees
Several detainees recount the night when their cellmate, Genesis 'Tisoy' Argoncillo, was beaten to death inside Quezon City Police District Station 4. They all clear cops of involvement.

MANILA, Philippines – Of over 100 detainees in the Quezon City police station where Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo was beaten to death, only 3 have spoken up about the incident.

According to affidavits of the witnesses obtained by Rappler, detainees Richard Bautista and Justine Mercado killed Argoncillo, while cops at Quezon City Police Disrict Station 4 were allegedly tricked into believing that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the jail cell late night of June 18.

The 3 witnesses are:

  • Rolly San Jose, 34, detained for illegal drugs
  • Nestor Millete, 53, arrested for carrying a sharp object in public
  • Sterence Lamac, 22, nabbed for illegal gambling

They gave their official statements through affidavits signed Friday, June 22. All recalled the incident occurred “bandang 10 pm (at around 10 pm)” on June 18.

Their versions of the incident vary in some details, but all recalled that the suspects, not cops, killed Argoncillo.

How did Genesis Argoncillo die?

San Jose said Argoncillo threw the first punch.

Bago po mangyari ang insidente ay may sinuntok itong si Genesis Argoncillo na kapwa niya, dahil mainit sa loob ng kulungan at hindi siya sanay mangulungan (Before the incident happened, Genesis Argoncillo punched someone because it was hot in the cell, and he’s not used to detention),” San Jose said in his affidavit.

San Jose said suspects Bautista and Mercado tried to stop Argoncillo from allegedly fighting with another detainee.

Hindi pa rin siya naawat kaya doon na siya pinagtulungan bugbugin at tadyakan ng dalawa (They couldn’t stop him so that’s when the two ganged up on him, mauled him, and kicked him),” he said.

San Jose said two two continued to pummel Argoncillo even after the latter had fallen on the floor.

Millete had a slightly different recollection. He said Argoncillo was beaten up because he refused to follow orders of the cell “leaders” – the suspects in his death.

Rappler learned from Station 4 cops that the detainees took turns standing up and sitting down in the congested detention cell. QCPD Director Chief Superintendent Joselito Esquivel earlier said the police station’s jail was built to hold only 6 people but had 138 people when Argoncillo was there.

Millete said that Argoncillo stood up out of turn, which allegedly angered Bautista and Mercado, the recognized masters of the cell.

Agad niyang (Bautista) sinampal itong si Genesis Argoncillo (Bautista immediately slapped Argoncillo),” Millete said in his affidavit.

Argoncillo apparently refused to sit down even after he was slapped, so Bautista and Mercado continued hitting him. Millete believed Argoncillo’s behavior came from “problema sa pag-iisip  (a mental health problem).”

Lamac, meanwhile, said Argoncillo got into trouble for “running” around the packed cell. (READ: CCTV in Genesis Argoncillo’s detention cell broken on day of killing)

Habang nasa loob kami ng kulungan ay tumatakbo-takbo si Genesis Argoncillo at natatapakan ang mga nakaupo (While inside the cell, Genesis Argoncillo ran around, stepping on those who were sitting down),” Lamac said in his sworn statement.

This angered Bautista, prompting him to slap Argoncillo. Argoncillo allegedly went berserk after getting hit, and continued running around the cell, further infuriating Bautista and Mercado, who ganged up on him.

Lamac added that others joined in punching and kicking Argoncillo, but he could not recall who they were.

The 3 witnesses said that after Argoncillo was beaten up, he lay down for hours before calling for help.

Where were the cops?

San Jose said the cops arrived only after the mauling incident.

When the police checked the cell, Bautista and Mercado apparently just told the cops that they tried to stop a fight. They believed the two and left without noticing that Argoncillo was already gasping for breath. (EXCLUSIVE: Photos, death certificate show Genesis ‘Tisoy’ Argoncillo beaten to death)

Millete said the suspects were well-guarded by alleged fellow members of the Sputnik Gang. Whenever the two mauled another detainee, their gang members would alert them if a cop was approaching the cell.

It is unclear how the suspects allegedly covered up the supposed beating when cops checked the cell.

In Lamac’s affidavit, police came to the cell when the detainees called for help for Argoncillo. At that point, Argoncillo struggled to breathe.

Asked what they knew of Argoncillo after seeing him lifted out of the cell, all 3 witnesses told cops that they just heard he had died in the hospital.

What will happen next?

Bautista and Mercado have been slapped with murder charges, based on the  affidavits of the witnesses.

The suspects are now detained in Camp Karingal at the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit.

Millete has been released as he had completed his sentence, while San Jose and Lamac are still detained at the QCPD Station 4. QCPD has been trying to prod more witnesses to speak up.

Meanwhile, QCPD chief Esquivel told his men on Friday, June 22, that Argoncillo’s death should not weaken their resolve to fight crime, in line with the Duterte administration’s unrelenting anti-illegal drugs campaign and anti-“tambay” drive.  –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.