crimes in the Philippines

3 cops tagged in Spanish businessman’s death surrender

Jairo Bolledo
3 cops tagged in Spanish businessman’s death surrender

SURRENDEREES. Three cops tagged in the death of Spanish businessman Diego Lafuente surrendered to Philippine authorities on February 9. 2023, as shown in this photo provided by the Department of Justice. They were accompanied by their lawyer, whose face was also blurred.

Department of Justice

Diego Bello Lafuente was killed in what the cops claimed to be a 'shootout' during an anti-drug operation in Siargao in 2020. The cops were charged with murder and planting of evidence over two years later.

MANILA, Philippines – Three cops tagged in the death of Spanish businessman Diego Bello Lafuente had surrendered to authorities, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday, February 15.

The DOJ said the cops initially surrendered to Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Brigadier General Romeo Caramat, who brought them to the DOJ. They were identified as Captain Wise Vicente Panuelos, and staff sergeants Ronel Pazo and Nido Boy Cantos.

“[This is] a very welcome development in this case. We are now able to move forward and try the case and deliver justice in a case that has transcended borders,” said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.

Lafuente – a Spanish businessman and a surfer based in Siargao, Surigao del Norte – was a suspected “drug lord” and was killed in an anti-drug operation in 2020.

The cops claimed that Lafuente allegedly triggered a shootout and that they fired back in self-defense, the DOJ said. The results of a forensic examination, however, disproved the claim of the cops that there was a shootout.

In March 2022, DOJ prosecutors found probable cause to file charges against the cops for alleged murder and planting of evidence. An arrest warrant was issued against them, but they were “nowhere to be found.”

Four months later, in July 2022, the Commission on Human Rights flagged the delay in the probe into Lafuente’s death. The CHR even commented that the delay “goes beyond the reasonable promptness required in the effective administration of justice.”

That same year, European lawmakers, in a meeting with Philippine senators in Brussels, Belgium, also raised concern over the slow progress of the case. The Philippine lawmakers also said there was a request from the European parliament “to crack down and find the erring policemen” tagged in Lafuente’s case. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.