Skyler Abatayo case: 4 cops sacked as probe begins

Rambo Talabong
Skyler Abatayo case: 4 cops sacked as probe begins
The 4 anti-drug cops tested negative for gunpowder traces, but this does not get them completely off the hook, says the Philippine National Police

MANILA, Philippines – Cops in the drug bust-turned-shootout that killed 4-year-old Skyler Abatayo have been relieved of their posts.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced this Friday night, July 13, saying that the 4 cops were being investigated by the Internal Affairs Service (IAS).

“The PNP will not hesitate to file any appropriate administrative or criminal charges if culpability by any of our personnel has been established after a thorough investigation by the PNP-IAS 7 (Central Visayas),” the statement sent to reporters read.

The PNP did not release the names of the 4 cops.

Abatayo was killed on Tuesday afternoon, July 10, just after he finished his homework with his mother. The cops entered their neighborhood after receiving a call that druggies were holding a pot and shabu repacking session.

What was supposed to be an inspection, however, turned into a shootout. 

One of the bullets, police earlier told Rappler, found its way through the walls of the Abatayo home and into the chest of Skyler. The child was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. (LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte’s drug war)

The PNP said it subjected the cops to a paraffin test to determine who fired a gun during the encounter. The test consists of cops dipping and drying their hands in paraffin wax, and crime lab agents examining the cast for any gunpowder particles.

None of the 4 cops in the scene tested positive, the PNP said, pointing to the suspects as the source of the fatal bullet. This does not the policemen off the hook, however.

“While the 4 DEU (drug enforcement unit) operatives were reportedly found negative in paraffin tests, we still could not totally discount their responsibility [for] the death of Skyler pending the final outcome of the investigation,” the PNP said.

The cops can still be questioned about how they had secured, or had neglected to secure, the surrounding residential area as they moved forward with the inspection, especially since they were familiar with drug suspects allegedly fighting back (“nanlaban“).

There are ongoing manhunt operations for the drug suspects, as all 4 of them were able to flee from the scene.

Abatayo was not the first child killed by a stray bullet during an anti-drug operation. In August 2016, 5-year-old Danica May Garcia was killed by a stray bullet in an anti-drug operation in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, as she prepared to go to school.

Abatayo is the only son of the Abatayos of Ermita in Cebu City. He is set to be laid to rest on July 21. –


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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.