war on drugs

In Bulacan, police ‘kidnap’ passersby then kill them in fake ‘nanlaban’ case – NBI

Lian Buan

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In Bulacan, police ‘kidnap’ passersby then kill them in fake ‘nanlaban’ case – NBI
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) files complaints of murder, kidnapping, and planting of guns and drugs against 11 officials of the San Jose Del Monte police

On Valentines day, February 14, 2020, policemen of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, kidnapped passersby, made them out to be drug suspects, killed them on separate instances, and faked stories of nanlaban (fighting back), according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The NBI filed complaints of murder, kidnapping, and planting of guns and drugs against 11 officials of the San Jose del Monte Police, including its drug enforcement chief, for the elaborate killing of 6 men.

The complaints were filed against Police Major Leo Dela Rosa, the drug enforcement chief; staff sergeants Benjie Enconado, Jayson Legaspi, Irwin Joy Yuson, Edmund Catubay Jr; corporals Jay Marc Leoncio, Herbert Hernandez, Raymond Bayan, Paul Malgap; and patrolmen Erwin Sabdo and Rusco Madla.

How it happened

On the evening of February 13, San Jose Del Monte police conducted a buy bust operation against Edwin Macapanas at his house in Barangay Santo Cristo. There, police apprehended Edwin and 4 others over the buy bust. 

Edwin and company would later be charged for violation of the anti-drug law – but it’s the passersby who were killed in succeeding nights, according to the NBI’s complaint transmitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

According to the NBI, 6 people – divided into 3 groups of 2 – passed by Edwin’s house in the evening of the buy bust which extended to the wee hours of February 14 – first, Edmar Samson and Richard Salgado aboard a motorcycle, then Chadwin Santos and Chamberlain Domingo aboard a tricyle, and lastly Erwin Mergal and Jim Joshua “JJ” Cordero on a motorcycle.

Edmar and Richard tried to turn back, but they were made to return.

All of them, by pairs, were “flagged down, searched by the operatives, before they were forcibly made to board the white van used by the operatives in their anti-illegal drugs operations.”

“When police investigators arrived, the white van carrying Erwin, JJ, Edmar, Richard, Chamberlain and Chadwin left for San Jose Del Monte (SJDM) police office. Edwin and his 4 companions were left behind; eventually, they were charged for violation of RA 9165 as amended,” the NBI said in its complaint.

A witness identified the ground operatives to be policemen Dela Rosa and Enconado and a certain Kyle, “whom he all knew because he frequently visited his mother detained at the SJDM City Police Office.” (READ: A gruesome tale of TokHang: ‘Sir, may humihinga pa’)

Kidnapped, detained, killed

The 6 were then “led to a room inside the intel office of SJDM Police office used by the operatives as sleeping quarters.”

“Allegedly, said room is also used as a holding area for those arrested but not declared as such and for whom a scenario is fabricated where in the person allegedly fought during the buy-bust operation,” said the NBI.

“They were blindfolded, hog-tied, detained thereat, pending the inclusion of their names in the PDEA-PNP Unified Drugs Watch,” said the NBI.

Later, the NBI confirmed with the Office of the City Vice Mayor of San Jose Del Monte that all 6 “were not found in their database as drug personalities watch list for the years 2017 and 2018.”

NBI’s witnesses took photos of the 6 detained at the police station, and confirmed these men to be the same men killed on separate nights, also by pairs. 

Chamberlain and Chadwin were killed February 14; Edmar and Richard were killed early morning of February 15; Erwin and JJ were the last to be killed on February 18. In that week, 10 drug suspects were killed in Bulacan.

At the time, the Bulacan police said the suspects fought back, a classic narrative of nanlaban where cops claim to be using guns in self defense.

“Habang amin silang hinabol ay bigla kaming (walang) magawa kyndi gumanti para maprotektahan ang nanganganib naming buhay (while we were running after them, we didn’t have a choice but to return fire to protect our lives which were in danger),” the policemen said in their affidavits.

But the NBI cited chemistry reports that showed the suspects tested negative for gunpowder nitrates.

And how can these men be armed, and then busted when they were detained and tied in a room by the same cops?

“Photographs reveal that the clothing worn by (the victims) at the time they were killed was the same in the photographs taken during their abduction and detention inside the Intel Office on February 14, 2020 and as described by witnesses,” said the NBI, which called them “fabricated drug buy bust operations.” (READ: Duterte gov’t allows ‘drug war’ deaths to go unsolved)

He was still alive when his wife came to look

Erwin and JJ were killed on February 18, but according to Erwin’s wife, she had filed for a missing persons blotter as early as February 15.

Erwin’s wife then went to the same police station, where she was told “hinanap nila sa listahan ng mga nahuli ang pangalan ng asawa ko at sinabi na wala naman daw (they looked for him in the list of people they arrested but I was told my husband was not there.)”

“Nag-request ako na silipin sa bilangguan kung nandoon ang asawa ko ngunit ‘di nila ako pinagbigyan (I requested to take a look at the cells to see if my husband was there but they didn’t let me),” said the wife in her affidavit.

The wife was then told to go look for Erwin in other police stations.

Erwin was a construction worker. He had planned on going abroad.

“Ang alam ko na dati na gumagamit ang asawa ko pero matagal na iyon,” said the wife. (From what I know my husband used drugs, but that was a long time ago.)

“Hindi rin ito puwedeng manggamit ng droga dahil sa nakaplano na siyang aalis ngayong Marso 2020 para magtrabaho abroad,” she added. (He couldn’t have been using drugs because he had planned on going abroad this March 2020.)

The Supreme Court still sits on a nearly three-year-old petition seeking to declare President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs unconstitutional.Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.