Retired OFW dies under police custody

Rambo Talabong

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Retired OFW dies under police custody
Police say Allan Rafael died from shortness of breath, but his family says he was beaten to death by cops

MANILA, Philippines – A retired overseas Filipino worker (OFW) died while in police custody after being detained for “breach of peace” and alleged possession of illegal drugs.

Police said he died due to difficulty in breathing, but his family believes he was beaten to death.

His arrest: Allan Rafael is a former OFW who was forced to retire from his cooking job abroad after he was diagnosed with cancer.

In the evening of August 2, he and a boardmate were stopped by Manila police in a Recto Avenue checkpoint. According to the police, they breached public peace and allegedly had in their possession two sachets of methamphetamine or shabu. Four days later, Allan was declared dead.

His brother Aarun Rafael recounted in a Facebook post what Allan had told him before he died that he was brought to a bank and “forced” to withdraw money before being detained and forced to admit that he used drugs.

He surmised that the police saw an easy target in Allan simply because he was thin.

Natural po na payat ang kuya ko kasi galing sa chemo (My brother is naturally thin because he came from chemotherapy)!” Aarun said.

His death: The police said Allan died from shortness of breath. Aarun said he died from being beaten by policemen.

Kinukuwento na niya na binubugbog at sinasampal siya ng mga pulis doon pati ‘yung dibdib niya na bagong opera para umamin na nag-drugs siya,” Aarun said.

(He was already telling us that he was being beaten and slapped by police there, even hitting his chest that was fresh from surgery just so he would admit he uses illegal drugs.)

KILLED? Allan Rafael dies under police custody after being arrested for breach of peace and alleged possession of illegal drugs. Photo courtesy of Aarun Rafael

Aarun lamented that there’s no way to independently confirm how his brother died because the police allegedly had Allan embalmed without the consent of the family.

Bakit niyo ipina-embalsamo eh wala pang miyembro ng pamilya? May tinatago ba kayo? Parang may sabwatan yung mga pulis at ‘yung funeral homes na pinagdalhan sa bangkay ni Kuya,” Aarun said.

(Why did you have him embalmed without the presence of a family member? Are you hiding something? It seems like there is collusion between the police and the funeral homes where my big brother was brought.)

His family’s call: On Friday, August 10, the MPD launched an investigation into Allan Rafael’s death.

“In the coming days, we will faithfully do our duty to ensure that his family and our community will be informed of all our investigative steps to produce a thorough investigation,” the MPD said in a statement.

The MPD said that the death certificate of Allan Rafael indicated he died due to “cardio respiratory arrest”.

Just two months before, another detainee, Genesis Argoncillo died under police custody. Police also claimed he died from shortness of breath, but his death certificate and photos of him showed he was killed through a beating.

Aarun ended his Facebook post calling out for help and justice from Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde, the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Human Rights.

Umaasa kaming pinahahalagahan pa ang buhay dito sa Pilipinas at naniniwala kaming gumagana pa ang hustisya dito sa bansa,” he said.

(We are hoping that life is still valued here in the Philippines and we believe that justice still works in our country.) –

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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.