crimes in the Philippines

Homicide complaint filed against cop in Maasin, Southern Leyte slay

Inday Espina-Varona
Homicide complaint filed against cop in Maasin, Southern Leyte slay

ACCOUNTABILITY. Southern Leyte provincial police chief, Col. Hector Enage is commander of a special regional task force probing police accountability in the December 9 death of Gilbert Ranes in Maasin City.

Screencap of Enage press conference

Human Rights Watch Asia senior researcher Carlos Conde says the family of Gilbert Ranes 'deserves justice, and a thorough and impartial investigation should be undertaken into his apparent wrongful death in police custody'

A Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) will probe the involvement of cops in the December 9 killing of 34-year-old theft suspect Gilbert Ranes in Maasin City, Southern Leyte, the Philippine National Police Eastern Visayas regional office announced on Wednesday, December 14.

The Southern Leyte Provincial Police Office also filed on Tuesday a homicide complaint against Staff Sergeant Ronald Gamayon with the Maasin City Prosecutor’s Office, under NPS Docket No. VIlI-06-INV-22L-226, according to a statement by Brigadier General Rommel Francisco Marbil, PNP Eastern Visayas (Region 8) director.

The 36-year-old Gamayon, a member of the Southern Leyte police Provincial Intelligence Unit (PIU), was identified by witnesses as the man in the video who beat up Ranes on a street curb.

He is under restrictive custody and disarmed of his issued service firearm.

Marbil’s statement said four officers of the Maasin City police office have also been reassigned to the provincial PNP as they face an internal investigation for serious lapses in protocol covering the handling of suspects.

Staff Sergeants Ricky Mantos and Jovan DC Alvarez, Corporal Russell P Salar and Patrolman Rolando America were reassigned on December 12 after investigators determined they were on duty when Ranes was brought to the city police station. 

Deputy Regional Director for Operations Colonel Salvador Alacyang is the supervisor of special task group “Ranes” with Southern Leyte provincial police chief Colonel Hector Enage as commander. 

Other members of the probe group are Lieutenant Colonel Jayson Balbarona, Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Cruto Jr., Major Glenn Aculana, Major Gracila Sabas, Captain Ana Maria Gono, and case investigator  Master Sergeant John Ryan Quisado.

Arc of brutality

“Rest assured that this PRO will closely monitor this case or similar incidents  involving officers under my watch. Here in Eastern Visayas, we do not tolerate misfits among our rank and file. We always see to it that truth prevails,” Marbil said in his statement.

Other incidents of police brutality in the Philippines have previously been captured on video.

Ranes is the rare case where a series of graphic videos show the arc of events – from the 7 pm street side beating, to police station, to being carried out around 8 pm  for hospital treatment.

Doctors at the provincial hospital tried to save Ranes but pronounced him dead at 11 pm.

The postmortem report by Dr. April Macabuhay of the Maasin Rural Health Unit said the victim died of severe head trauma.

The viral videos shocked Maasin folk, which a local journalist described as “a quiet place with hardly any record of this kind of police brutality.”

Enage told Rappler on December 13 that investigators have at least two strong witnesses to the beating done by Gamayon on the curb off a busy street.

The police officer was off duty when he passed by locals beating up Ranes in Barangay Mantahan after catching him with a stolen mobile phone.

One of three videos posted by Ranes’ kin shows Gamayon, who had his foot on Ranes’s back, slamming a blunt object twice on the latter’s head.

Engage said the four Maasin cops had responded to the distress call and helped transport the suspect to the police station. At his December 13 press conference, he indicated that cops could have brought the injured suspect first to the hospital.

BRAZEN. In full view of commuters, a cop bashes the head of a theft suspect in Maasin City, Southern Leyte on December 11.

Ranes was still conscious when he arrived at the police station past 7 pm on December 9 for booking as a theft suspect, Enage said.

Police had just taken his fingerprints when he complained of breathing difficulty and soon after collapsed.

A second video shows Ranes lying on the floor of the police station unconscious, surrounded by pairs of black leather shoes. 

As someone rolled him over, a voice said in the local Binisaya language, “Tiwasan Nlaman ni!” (Finish him off!)

The third video shows men carrying Ranes to a police vehicle, with a voice saying, “they treat him like a pig.”

Engage told Rappler cops had called the local fire station for a medic. But based on the video and police investigators’ report, he said it was clear there were “serious lapses in protocol.’

At the least, the administrative charges could be neglect or grave neglect of duty, the provincial police chief said.

Impartial probe

Human Rights Watch-Asia senior researcher Carlos Conde on December 13 said, “authorities need to ensure that police officers are held accountable and that the laws prohibiting police abuse are upheld.”

“Ranes’ family deserves justice, and a thorough and impartial investigation should be undertaken into his apparent wrongful death in police custody,” Conde said.

In a brief exchange with Rappler, Conde acknowledged the provincial police office’s swift action on the case.

His article for HRW cited previous cases of police officers committing serious abuses against criminal suspects with impunity, especially during the six-year “war on drugs” of former president Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com

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