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MANILA, Philippines – The Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 133 has acquitted a drug war survivor who was alleged by police personnel of assaulting them.
“Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, accused Efren Morillo y Mendoza is hereby acquitted of direct assault upon an agent to agents of a person in authority in Criminal Case No. 16-09092 for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” read the court decision, which was made public on Friday, March 17.
Morillo has been acquitted by the court after the prosecution failed to establish the elements of direct assault in the case. The court added the alleged crime did not happen “at the time the police operatives were in the lawful exercise of their duties.”
“The prosecution did not establish with moral certainty that accused Morillo assaulted, attacked, and employed personal violence or intimidation on the police operatives,” the decision read.
The direct assault charge was filed by police personnel Emil Garcia, Allan Formilleza, James Aggarao, and Melchor Navisaga in August 2016 – the early days of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war.
In explaining the decision, the Quezon City court said the cops did not prove to have conducted the “Oplan TokHang” (anti-drug operation) on the day of the incident in compliance with the rules of the national police. The prosecution also failed to prove that the TokHang survivor “resisted and attacked” the police personnel because none of the witnesses saw him firing his gun.
The court also noted that the police “cannot be presumed to have [acted] in the valid performance of their duties” because they failed to coordinate with proper agencies and the barangay in the conduct of the said operation. Morillo is represented by his legal counsels from the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) and Butuyan & Rayel Law Offices.
“Mr. Morillo and his legal team welcome the Quezon City trial court decision. It is a beacon of light for those whose hopes have been dimmed and distorted by the pro forma, lawless, and soulless ‘nanlaban‘ narrative. This decision is proof that truth will prevail and lives on,” the CenterLaw said in a statement.
On August 21, 2016, Morillo and four others were shot by cops during an Oplan TokHang operation in Payatas, Quezon City. Morillo’s companions, identified as Anthony Comendo, Jessie Cule, Marcelo Daa, Jr., and Rhaffy Gabo, died in the incident. Morillo, meanwhile, survived and “played dead,” according to CenterLaw.
From a small opening in the makeshift room where they were shot by the cops, Morillo escaped while injured and eventually reached the highway. He was given proper medical care only after nine hours, the CenterLaw added. When the police discovered he survived the operation, he was slapped with the direct assault complaint.
Months later, on January 26, 2017, Morillo and the families of his companions filed the first drug war-related petition with the Supreme Court. They filed for the issuance of the privilege of writ of amparo – a remedy used to seek a protection order. Eventually, the Court of Appeals granted the privilege of the writ and issued a permanent protection order for Morillo and his fellow petitioners.
Aside from this, the TokHang survivor also lodged administrative complaints against the cops before the Office of the Ombudsman on March 2, 2017. The case is still pending as of March 2023. – Rappler.com