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New win vs tokhang: Ombudsman orders murder charges vs Manila cop

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights lawyers representing victims of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs scored another legal victory as Ombudsman Samuel Martires ordered the filing of murder charges against a Manila cop for the killing of 23-year-old epileptic Djastin Lopez.

“Let an information for murder be filed against respondent PO3 Gerry Geñalope before the proper court,” said the resolution approved by Martires on February 28, 2019, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler on Thursday, April 4.

Geñalope, who shot Lopez dead in a supposed police operation in Tondo on May 18, 2017, was also found guilty of grave misconduct.

Martires also ordered Geñalope dismissed from the service, “including cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.”

This is  the first resolution from the Office of the Ombudsman against alleged erring cops conducting the campaign against illegal drugs under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The complaints against Police Captain Jojo Salanguit and other John Does were dropped. 

Legitimate police operation?

The Ombudsman also junked complaints of planting of evidence against the Manila cops for insufficient evidence.

The same thing happened in the case of slain 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, where Caloocan Judge  Rodolfo Azucena Jr junked complaints of planting evidence, which would have boosted the case of human rights lawyers that cops committed illegal conduct in the campaign against drugs.

But Martires offered an opening into that route – he ordered a separate fact-finding investigation.

“It is, thus, recommended that a fact-finding investigation be conducted by the Field Investigation Bureau of this Office, to determine whether the May 18, 2017 (operation) was a legitimate police operation, what violations were committed, if any, and who are the personalities involved,” said Martires.

Treachery

Autopsy results showed that Lopez died of multiple gunshots to his upper extremity and other parts of the body. He was hit 5 times in the chest and stomach, and once in the arm.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman police documents which would show conflicts in the police narrative.

The police spot report on the death of Lopez identified the 23-year-old as a wanted person for the killing of a certain Michael Turla Panganiban. 

But in a report filed before the Manila Police District’s (MPD's) Crime Investigation and Detection Unit dated May 14, 2017, the suspects in the killing of Panganiban did not include the name of Lopez.

In a June 9, 2017 progress report, the cops said the operation that killed Lopez was a buy-bust operation, contrary to the police claim on May 18 that Djastin was a suspect in a murder case.

“Clearly, PO3 Geñalope perpetrated said acts with treachery,” said the Ombudsman.

“As attested by the eyewitnesses, it is evident that PO3 Geñalope consciously and deliberately employed said attack to ensure the execution of the crime and make it impossible for (Lopez) to defend himself or retaliate,” said the Ombudsman.

The Manila cops used the same narrative of “nanlaban” or resisting with a gun against Lopez.

“(Geñalope’s) allegations that it was (Lopez) who first fired at him and that he merely acted in self-defense, are matters that can be best passed upon after a full blown trial on the merits,” said the Ombudsman.

On Tuesday, April 2, the Supreme Court granted the petition of the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) for access to thousands of documents related to the killings made under the mantle of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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