Anger, helplessness drive kin of drug war victims to name 'killer' cop
MANILA, Philippines – Anger and helplessness have driven families to identify a policeman who allegedly killed several drug suspects in areas under the jurisdiction of Police Station 2-Moriones in Tondo, Manila.
An investigative story of Rappler’s Patricia Evangelista and Magnum Foundation photographer Carlo Gabuco named witnesses who tagged Police Officer 3 Ronald Alvarez, beat patroller at the Delpan Police Community Precinct, as behind at least 4 drug-related deaths in the area.
"Hindi naman lahat ng kinausap namin ay gusto maglabas eh at depende sa pamilya. Kasi nakailang balik kami sa pamilya, kailangan namin ipaliwanag na ilalabas namin ito, handa ba kayo? Sigurado ba kayo?" Evangelista told Rappler investigative desk head Chay Hofileña on Thursday, April 27.
(Not all we talked to wanted to be identified. We went back and forth with the families who agreed to be included, explaining that we were going to release this story and we kept on asking if they were ready and if they were sure.)
"Ang sagot nila: 'Kinausap kami ng mga kapitbahay, sabi papatayin kami eh pero para sa anak ko ito. Ito lang magagawa ko.' Or galit talaga sila, gusto nila magkuwento," she added, recalling what the families told them.
(Their response: "Our neighbors warned that we'll be killed but this is for my child. This is the only thing I can do." Or they’re just really angry, they want to tell all.)
Alvarez, whose name constantly popped up in the narratives of the families, is alleged to be behind summary executions under the guise of legitimate police operations. He refused a request to be interviewed for his side of the story. (READ: Witnesses name Manila policeman behind drug-related summary killings)
Evangelista and Gabuco said they were worried about the people who decided to speak up.
"I think that’s what we lived with every night, na baka balikan sila, baka patayin sila, baka may isang tawag sa amin na dahil pumunta kami doon, may mangyari sa kanila (that there might be retaliation, they might be killed, that one day we'd receive a call saying that something happened to them)," Evangelista said. "I think that’s what we’re still thinking about."
No affidavit, no investigation
The Manila Police District (MPD) promised an investigation into the families' allegations, but the families themselves need to execute affidavits stating the circumstances surrounding the death of their kin.
The interviews collated could not be used to file charges against Alvarez, the Homicide Division told Evangelista and her team.
"Ang kaso po kasi, kung kami ang pumunta, mag-interview sa pamilya, at makuha ang loob nila, sasabihin nila, and according to the detectives, hindi puwede ganoon sa kanila," Evangelista recalled policemen telling her.
(If we journalists were the ones who interviewed the families, and we secured their confidence, and they told us everything, according to the detectives, this can't be enough [for an investigation].)
"According sa kanila, ang mga pamilya mismo, hindi lang puwede magkuwento, kailangan nila pumunta sa MPD, doon sila magsasign ng affidavit at doon sila magsasampa ng kaso kung magsasampa man sila o magsasabi na willing sila."
(According to them, it should be the families themselves who should go to the MPD, and sign an affidavit, and file charges, or say they're willing to file charges.)
This "requirement" poses a challenge to families who already live in fear.
"Para sa mga pamilya, pulis ang pumatay," Evangelista explained. "Hindi raw puwede na may pumuntang abogado sa bahay at doon pipirma. Kailangan pumunta sa Homicide. Haharap sila. And kung ganoon ang sitwasyon, naiintidihan ko ang mga pamilya na takot na takot sila."
(The families believe that a policeman killed [their family member]. Lawyers can't just go to their homes and ask them to sign a sworn statement. They have to go to Homicide. They have to face them. And if that's the situation, I understand why these families are so afraid.)
READ THE FULL STORY:
WHERE THE DRUG WAR BEGAN
The team hopes that if the PNP will not investigate the case of Alvarez on its own, other institutions will, for the sake of the families who mustered the courage to speak up.
"Sana may mangyari at sana kung mapatunayan man na nagkasala, sana maparasuhan,” Gabuco said. "Sana maprotektahan iyong mga pamilya at iba pa na nakatira doon. Alam nila na wala silang laban eh."
(I hope something comes out of it, and if it’s proven that he did something wrong, I hope he’ll be punished. I also hope the families would be protected, and all the others who live in the area. They know they're defenseless.)
Evangelista said: "Iba naman kapag sinabi mo na willing ako, iba kapag kaharap mo na ang istorya. Tumawag sa akin ang isang pamilya kahapon, nalaman nila na lumabas na ang istorya. Winarn namin sila kung kailan lalabas pero noong nakita ng mga kapitbahay, napag-usapan na, natakot sila."
(It’s different when you say you’re willing and when you finally see the story published. One family called me yesterday after learning that the story had been published. We informed them of the date of publication but when their neighbors saw the story, it was talked about, and they got scared.)
"Gusto nila umalis, pero nandoon ang mga trabaho, so aalis ba sila? Kanino sila pupunta? May mga grupo na tumutulong pero hindi nila alam kung willing silang iwan ang mga buhay nila," she added.
(They want to go away but how can they, when their livelihood is there? Who will they turn to? There are groups who are helping but they don't know if they're willing to leave their lives behind.)
Duty to report
There was no shortage of challenges over the course of the 3-month investigation which included collecting spot reports, talking to police, and most importantly, being welcomed into the homes of the victims' families.
Evangelista, Gabuco, and their team set aside their concern for personal safety to complete their report.
"Ang hirap na nasa bahay ka lang at nakikita mo ang nangyayari and para sa akin, form ito ng recording of what’s happening," Gabuco said. "Takot ako madalas kasi papasukin namin iyong mga lugar na ito. Pero ako, mas privileged pa kumpara sa kanila kaya sinasabi ko sa sarili ko wala akong karapatang matakot."
(It’s difficult to just stay at home, and then you see what’s happening. For me, this is a form of recording of what’s happening. I'm often scared because we have to go to these places. But I’m more privileged than those who are there so I just tell myself that I don't have the right to be scared.)
For Evangelista, it would be a disservice to not see through the story given the narratives, the documents, and the evidence that they gathered and dug up on what was really happening in the community.
"For us, wala kaming karapatang hindi gawin kasi nakausap na namin ang pamilya and it must have taken a lot of courage to say what they said and do what they did,” she said. “Sa amin kasi, hindi kami taga-doon. Nakakaalis kami. May ahensya kami. Aalagaan kami ng Rappler at kung sino man, puwede kami magsumbong. Sila hindi."
(Foe us, we have no right not do the story because we already talked to the families and it must have taken a lot of courage to say what they said and do what they did. We don't live there and we can leave that place. We have an agency that could take care of us, as well as others, which we can raise our concerns to. They don't.)
"If it's the least we can do, it's to serve the story right." – Rappler.com