Senate of the Philippines

Senate detains chief investigator in Jemboy Baltazar’s killing

Jairo Bolledo

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Senate detains chief investigator in Jemboy Baltazar’s killing

CONTEMPT. Captain Juanito Arabejo, chief investigator of the Navotas City Police Station, attends the senate hearing on the killing of Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar, on August 29, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The Senate holds Captain Juanito Arabejo in contempt after he insisted there was no order to subject the suspects to a paraffin test, contradicting the claims of other policemen

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate detained the chief investigator in the case of 17-year-old Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar, who was killed by cops in Navotas earlier this month.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, August 29, Northern Police District chief Brigadier General Rizalito Gapas said the six cops tagged as suspects were not subjected to paraffin tests to confirm if they fired their guns. The NPD chief, who oversees the Navotas Philippine National Police (PNP), said the six were only physically identified by their team leaders, Captains Mark Joseph Carpio and Luisito dela Cruz.

It was revealed that the suspects refused to undergo paraffin testing, and yet Jemboy was subjected to the said test. This was confirmed by former Navotas police chief Colonel Allan Umipig.

When asked why the cops did not undergo the said test, Captain Juanito Arabejo, the chief investigator, said there was no order for the said paraffin test. But Umipig reiterated that he gave an order, adding that there were other police officers who heard his command. Two police officers later confirmed this.

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This prompted opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros to cite Arabejo in contempt, which was approved by committee chairperson Senator Ronald dela Rosa. Arabejo became the third cop to be placed under Senate custody in relation to Jemboy’s killing – after team leader Carpio and one of the suspects, Police Staff Sergeant Gerry Maliban.

Paraffin testing is used to determine the presence of gunpowder particles on a person. This is part of protocol for police involved in a shooting incident.

On August 2, Jemboy and his friend were cleaning their fishing boat when Jemboy was gunned down by the cops in a river near their home in Barangay NBBS Kaunlaran, Navotas City. The teen sustained a gunshot wound in the head, with drowning as a contributory factor. Jemboy fell into the river after he was shot, his family said.

The cops tagged in the killing were identified as Police Executive Master Sergeant Roberto Balais Jr., Police Staff Sergeant (PSSg.) Antonio Bugayong, Maliban, PSSg. Nikko Pines Esquillon, Police Corporal Edmark Jake Blanco, and Patrolman Benedict Mangada.

Crowd, Person, Adult
SUSPECTS. Six Navotas policemen attend the Senate hearing on the killing of Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar, on August 29, 2023. Angie de Silva/ Rappler

Arabejo, along with Master Sergeant Aurelito Galvez who worked under him, were already relieved from their posts following the teen’s killing. The two are also facing administrative charges for simple neglect of duty for their failure to subject the cops to paraffin testing.

Although the suspects did not undergo paraffin test, their firearms were subjected to ballistic examination, according to Arabejo. However, Hontiveros said that paraffin test and ballistics examination could have been used for stronger evidence against the suspects.

Safety concerns

Rodaliza, Jemboy’s mother, also spoke during the Senate hearing, saying they worry about their safety.

“‘Di ba po marami sila? Bente? Ano pong laban namin na isang pamilya lang namin. Hindi po namin alam kung natutulog kami, baka mamaya babarilin na lang ‘yong bahay namin (They are many, aren’t they? 20? How can we stand up to them if we’re only one family. We can’t say, our house could be riddled with bullets while we’re asleep),” Rodaliza said.

Hontiveros said on Tuesday that it was Jemboy’s friend who was told by the police to declare that Jemboy had illegal drugs in his possession. This was already revealed by Hontiveros during the last hearing on August 22. Rodaliza confirmed this and added that on top of illegal drugs, Jemboy was also supposed to have a gun, both untrue.

Gapas, meanwhile, also revealed that 19 cops surrounded the area, where Jemboy was killed. He shared photos of the confiscated firearms from the six suspects, which include two long firearms. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.