Despite fear, more families file EJK complaints

Lian Buan

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Despite fear, more families file EJK complaints
A lawyer says about 100 similar cases are being readied against policemen

MANILA, Philippines – Despite fear for their safety, the families of Payatas men killed in the name of the government’s war on drugs have come forward to strengthen evidence against Quezon City policemen in an extrajudicial killing complaint.

They follow the lead of Efren Morillo, friend of their slain relatives who survived the “execution-style killing” and who earlier filed his complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The families filed supplemental affidavits on Thursday, March 16, to bolster Morillo’s complaint.

According to lawyer Rommel Bagares, they have monitored around 100 similar cases being handled by other lawyers.

Could this lead to cases that will directly link President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police to the murders?

“It requires a deeper investigation,” Bagares said.”Of course there is the memorandum circular of the police, so we are looking into the elements of the PNP’s memorandum circular ordering TokHang.”

Bagares stressed the importance of paper trail but lamented the police’s lack of cooperation when it comes to providing documents.

Women take the fight

The supplemental complaint filed on Thursday back up Morillo’s accusations of multiple murder, frustrated murder, robbery, planting of firearms, planting of evidence and grave misconduct against police official Senior Inspector Emil Garcia, and policemen PO3 Allan Formilleza, PO1 James Aggarao and PO1 Melchor Navisaga.

They conducted the Oplan TokHang operations and allegedly gunned down the victims while they sat on a bench handcuffed and begging for their lives.

The complainants are Marilyn Malimban, live-in partner of Jessie Cule; Lydia Gabo, mother of Rhaffy Gabo; and Maria Belen Daa, mother of Marcelo Daa Jr. 

Too scared

Apart from Cule, Daa and Gabo, Anthony Comendo also died in the operation but his family is too scared to file a case.

Apat and biktima dito, may isa pang pamilya ayaw sumama kasi natatakot sila… may pananakot pa rin na nangyayari,” Bagares said.

(There were 4 victims, there’s another relative who should have filed but they didn’t because they were scared. In fact, we think they’re still being subjected to threats and intimidation.)

Bagares added: “Napagalaman ko sa mga kasamahan kong abugado na may dalawang bangkay na tinapon malapit sa bahay ng nanay ni Marcelo Daa, parang threat siya sa mga kliyente namin.”

(We found out that two dead bodies were thrown near the house of Marcelo Daa’s mother as a way of threatening our clients.)

This, even if they had secured a permanent protection order from the Court of Appeals (CA) last February.

Bagares and his colleagues from the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) first sought a writ of amparo from Supreme Court (SC) and later the (CA) precisely because the complainants claimed they were being harrassed by the said policemen.

In granting the writ, the SC and the CA prohibited the cops from going within a 1-kilometer radius from the complainants.

The courts also directed the reassignment of the policemen and ordered the PNP to update the complainants of their investigation into the incident.

‘Execution-style killing’

The policemen conducted TokHang operations on August 21, 2016 – a police practice of knocking on doors of suspected drug dealers and pushers to convince them to surrender. Critics said the campaign is a mere cover for executions.

The cops barged into a shanty in Payatas where the five men were playing pool. A 14-year-old witness said the cops took the men to the back of the house and shot them one by one.

“Jessie Cule was the last of the 3 to be killed. He begged to be spared, hugging the legs of one of the armed men and sobbing. As he would not let go of his hold, the man shot him on the nape,” their petition to the SC reads.

Morillo survived by playing dead and then later sliding down into a ravine and walked until he reached the highway. Morillo is now under the custody of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

On Tuesday, another murder complaint was filed against Police Superintendent Ali Jose Duterte for the deaths of a drug suspect and his son in a buy-bust operation in Caloocan in September 2016. –


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Lian Buan

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