war on drugs

Nanlaban victim loses Ombudsman case, other witnesses bow out

Lian Buan

DRUG WAR. A file photo of a killing scene in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

File photo by Rappler

The survivor of the bloody operation in August 2016 is acquitted of direct assault charges filed by the police. The Office of the Ombudsman doesn't find this enough proof that there was no incident of 'nanlaban.'

The Office of the Ombudsman has junked the murder complaints against Quezon City policemen over the killing of 3 men in Batasan in August 2016 – one of the first few “nanlaban” cases in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

Rappler obtained on Friday, February 26, a 5-page resolution from the Ombudsman denying the motion for reconsideration filed by Mariza Hamoy, mother of 17-year-old Darwin Hamoy who was among those killed in 2016.

The document said the dismissal was signed back in January 2019 by Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) Cyril Ramos, and approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires in November 2019.

Hamoy, however, was only notified recently.

The Ombudsman said that Hamoy, as well as the relatives of the two other victims Cherwin Polo and William Bordeos, have no personal knowledge of what happened.

“Their statements cannot be considered for purposes of determining probable cause against respondents,” said the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman gave weight to the fact that Polo’s and Bordeo’s relatives have withdrawn their complaints.

Harold Arevalo, a companion of the 3, survived the operation. He was charged with direct assault by the policemen, a common move by cops in the war on drugs, but Arevalo had been acquitted of the charges since November 2017.

“Arevalo’s acquttal cannot conclusively indicate the absence of resistance or force on the part of the deceased victims,” said the Ombudsman.

Reached by Rappler, Hamoy said over a phone interview on Friday that they have not been able to contact Arevalo ever since. Hamoy would have wanted Arevalo to submit an affidavit to boost their case.

Hamoy said she is willing to explore other legal options if someone would help.

“Habang-buhay, may pag-asa. Lalabas ang katotohanan, buo po ang loob ko.  Willing po akong ilaban. Unfair…na nanlaban ang anak ko? Parang ang labo, 17 years old lang ang anak ko,” said the 47-year-old Hamoy, who is a street sweeper.

(I have hopes as long as I’m living. The truth will come out, and my whole heart is in this. I am willing to fight. It’s unfair to accuse my son of resisting arrest. That’s impossible, he was only 17.)

Hamoy was again prompted to speak out after the Department of Justice said that their review found major police lapses in “nanlaban” cases. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said police didn’t follow protocols and did not pursue weapon examinations.

In the policemen’s account, as quoted by the Ombudsman, Polo shouted “Putang ina! Pulis! Pulis! Pulis! (Son of a bitch! Cops! Cops! Cops!)” before firing at the cops.

“Putang ina, pulis ka (Son of a bitch, you’re a cop)” is a phrase found in other police reports of “nanlaban,” and appears to be a template, according to the Free Legal Assistance Group, a petitioner in a Supreme Court case seeking to declare the drug war unconstitutional. 

A Rappler investigation found that the Duterte government submitted rubbish files to the Supreme Court, and has been able to stall the case for 4 years.

Witnesses bow out

Apart from Arevalo, Polo’s wife would have also been a witness had she not withdrew the complaint.

When the families began to pursue a case through the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the wife said in an affidavit that she went home on August 15, 2016, to find Polo and Bordeos sleeping.

The wife said cops entered their home, and she heard Bordeos shout, “Sir huwag po, wala po (Please don’t, nothing’s here)!” The wife also said she told the cops not to shoot, and to just arrest whomever they wanted to arrest.

The wife, however, withdrew the complaint in May 2018 and turned around, saying that her husband always had a gun with him. The wife said her affidavit to the CHR was false, and that she was just carried away by the prodding of “media and other people.”

Hamoy said she had not talked to other complainants either. Hamoy said the Ombudsman neither held a single hearing nor informed her that the two other complainants had dropped out.

Unwillingness of families to pursue a case is common in drug war killings, especially if they’re up against the police.

Policemen Carlo Olape Sabella, Marvin Agdon Merida, Rhodolf Makie, Jun Ralph Pinero, Ronnie Banggat, Dennis Pal, Richard Timon, Edilberto Vargas, Nonilon Labaron, Michael Maderable, Amirudin Ibrahim, Albert Pombo, Andy Adalawan, Charles Molino, Herbert Angoluan, and Wilson Escuro of the Quezon City Police District Batasan Station 6 were cleared.

“Hindi po ako matatakot, sila ang pumatay sa anak ko. Dapat sila ang matakot,” said Hamoy.

(I am not scared, they killed my son. They should be scared.) – 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.