QC cops deny foul play in death of arrested 'tambay'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Quezon City police on Thursday, June 21, said a congested jail cell likely led to the death of a man who was among those arrested in the government's crackdown on street crimes and tambays or loiterers.

In a statement, QCPD director Chief Superintendent Joselito Esquivel denied allegations of foul play in the death of Genesis "Tisoy" Argoncillo, 25*, who was arrested after allegedly causing "alarm and scandal" in their Novaliches neighborhood on June 15.

Argoncillo was arrested a day after President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his order for an intensified drive against street crimes focused on tambays. 

Argoncillo was brought to the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Station 4, then underwent inquest procedures on June 16. Police said that 3 days later on June 19, Argoncillowas rushed to the Novaliches District Hospital after he complained that he had difficulty breathing. He died the same day.

The Argoncillo family told a different story: Argoncillo was arrested just because he was out on the streets, then was allegedly beaten to death while under police custody.

"Anong ginawa 'nyo sa kapatid ko? Puro pasa ang katawan niya pati bunganga niya, hindi naman siya kriminal. Kinawawa 'nyo kapatid ko. Sana mga kapulisan, gawin 'nyo ang trabaho 'nyo nang tama, panindigan 'nyo ang sinumpaang tungkulin 'nyo na 'To Serve and Protect,' pero bakit ganoon?" Argoncillo's sister, Marilou, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

(What did you do to my brother? His body and mouth are covered in bruises, even though he's not a criminal. You disparaged my brother. I wish that you, the police, do your job correctly and stand by your oath, "To serve and Protect," but why did this happen?)

Police denial, probe

Esquivel denied that Argoncillo was beaten to death. He said that Dr Jethiel Fabon, who pronounced Argoncillo dead, "certified that there were no signs [of] external injuries."

Esquivel said prior to Argoncillo's death, he complained of shortness of breath while in the detention facility. Unsurprisingly so, he said, as QCPD Station 4 has a jail cell built to hold only 6 people but currently houses 138 detainees.

Based on the figures from Esquivel, QCPD Station 4 jail was congested by 2,200%. 

Despite the denial, Esquivel announced that police will conduct a probe on Argoncillo's death (READ: Hundreds nabbed in Quezon City as PNP steps up drive vs 'tambays')

"Should violence be established as the cause of death, we will investigate everyone involved, including the police officers on duty, until the truth comes out, and then prosecute the guilty to the full extent of the law. Should any police be involved, we assure the public and the family of the deceased of full transparency," he said. 

Quezon City is known for its congested jail cells. QCPD is supposed to be among the most supported local police units in the country by its local government, frequently holding turnover ceremonies for expensive and high-tech equipment. – Rappler.com

*Editor's Note: In an earlier version of the story, we said Argoncillo was aged 22. This has been corrected to indicate 25.

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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