Taxi driver claims Arnaiz was robber, but killing seems 'scripted'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The taxi driver involved in the case of slain 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz surfaced on Sunday, September 10, saying that a robbery indeed took place. But he said the killing of Arnaiz seemed "staged."

In a press conference on Sunday organized by human rights group Rise Up for Life and for Rights, Tomas Bagcal said that about 15 minutes after he picked up Arnaiz along a "highway in Navotas," the latter declared a hold-up and asked for his wallet.

Arnaiz allegedly pulled the trigger of his gun but it malfunctioned, so he hit Bagcal's wrist with the gun instead. (READ: Carl Arnaiz tested positive for gunpowder – PNP)

After the supposed robbery, Bagcal claimed the teenager was then mauled by bystanders. (READ: Carl Arnaiz handcuffed, beaten up, killed – PAO autopsy)

"'Yung bugbog sarado, do'n sa mga tambay doon. Inawat ko na nga eh, sabi ko dalhin na lang sa presinto... Ang purpose ko doon, para i-inquest siya," the taxi driver said.

(He was beaten up by bystanders there. I even told them to stop, I said we should just bring the suspect to the police station... My purpose for bringing him there was so an inquest could be conducted.)

Bagcal said he took Arnaiz to the police station located along 9th Avenue. He claimed that police did not ask him questions about the robbery, and only asked him about his age, birthdate, address, and details of the cab he was driving – which would mean that police fabricated the rest of the information in his first affidavit.

Bagcal said that after he brought Arnaiz to the police station, cops then instructed him to follow them and the suspect to C3 Road where he was allegedly robbed. It was then that Arnaiz was shot dead.

"Nakita ko na naglalakad [si Arnaiz], and then a few seconds [later], may putukan na akong narinig. At that time, nagtago ako sa poste ng Meralco kasi hindi naman bulletproof 'yung taxi ko... Kita ko bagsak na 'yung naglalakad na naka-itim," he said.

(I saw him walking, and then a few seconds later, I heard gunshots. At that time, I hid behind an electrical post, because my taxi is not bulletproof... I saw the boy wearing black fall to the ground after getting shot.)

"Ang nangyari kasi sa police – 'yung pagkapatay nung prinesent kong hold-upper is parang stage play o scripted 'yung pagkapatay," he also said.

(What happened with the police – it seems that the killing of the hold-upper who I presented seems like a stage play, or it seems the killing was scripted.)

The Public Attorney's Office (PAO) earlier said the crime scene appeared to be "staged." (READ: PNP autopsy shows Carl Arnaiz had 'difficulty' fighting back)

Bagcal on Sunday said that the two policemen linked to Arnaiz's killing, PO1 Jeffrey Perez and PO1 Ricky Arquilita, were the same cops "in civilian clothes" he met on the night of the alleged robbery.

'Immense pressure'

Bagcal said he approached Rise Up because he feels immense pressure and fears for his family's safety. A relative, he added, told him about the group.

"May rumansack sa apartment ko, nakatiwangwang... pati 'yung bahay ko, ganoon rin, may pumunta ro'n, hinahanap ako," he said.

(Someone ransacked my apartment, left it in shambles... even my house, someone went there, looking for me.)

"Ang laki ng pressure ko kasi nadadawit 'yung pamilya ko sa dami ng pumupunta sa bahay at naghahanap sa akin kaya ako lumapit dito sa Rise Up," he added.

(I feel immense pressure because my family is getting dragged into this mess. Many people have come to our house, looking for me, so I decided to seek help from Rise Up.)

Bagcal was earlier criticized for issuing two contrasting affidavits on the alleged robbery. In the first affidavit on August 18, he supposedly failed to provide any details of the supposed robber's appearance. In the second affidavit on August 29, however, his description of the robber matched the clothes Arnaiz was wearing.

On Sunday, Bagcal said he issued the second affidavit to clarify that there was only one robber, since a 14-year-old boy was also being implicated in the case. Bagcal did not mention that boy's name, but Arnaiz's companion, 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, was later found dead in Nueva Ecija with around 30 stab wounds.

Last September 5, PO2 Rodolfo Bautista, the investigator, told senators in a legislative hearing that Bagcal was too "afraid" to speak to him in detail the first time.

Bagcal said on Sunday that he is willing to face the Senate probe into Arnaiz's case.

"Isa akong tatay din, at masakit mawalan [ng anak]. Kasi ako may anak din akong lalaki, masakit talaga. Pero wala tayong magagawa, 'yun na 'yun," the taxi driver added.

(I'm also a father, and I know it hurts to lose a child. I also have a son, so I know what happened is painful for them. But we can't do anything about it now, that's what happened.)

According to Rise Up, Bagcal prepared a written statement to clarify further questions and inconsistencies in his claims, and this will be presented in the "proper venue." (READ: Duterte calls Carl Arnaiz his 'relative'– Rappler.com