House of Representatives

House invites Davao cops who led stations with high drug war killings

Jairo Bolledo

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House invites Davao cops who led stations with high drug war killings

PROBE. The House of Representatives' probe into drug war on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Screenshot from CongressTV's YouTube page

Unlike some 'Davao Boys,' the House does not invite former president Duterte to the next hearing, but rather just 'informs' him

MANILA, Philippines – Amid its ongoing probe into drug war under former president Rodrigo Duterte, the House of Representatives has invited some Davao cops for its next hearing.

During the continuation of the lower chamber’s probe on the drug war on Wednesday, June 5, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro moved to invite the Davao cops. The committee on human rights later approved the Makabayan lawmaker’s suggestion to invite the following police officers and personnel:

  • Charles Owen Molinos
  • Michael Maderable
  • Ronnie Banggat
  • June Ralph Piñero
  • Emmanuel Ibit
  • Renante Solomon
  • Dennis Pal
  • Richard Timon

Castro said the cops were part of the operations, which resulted in the high number of killings during the drug war. The cops, who were originally from Mindanao, were assigned under Police Colonel Lito Patay, who was appointed as Quezon City Police Station 6 chief (Batasan) in 2016.

At the start of Duterte’s drug war in 2016, Batasan station was considered the most lethal station because of the high number of drug war killings. From July 2016 to June 2017, cops under the said station killed at least 108 people or 39% of the Quezon City’s body count on the said period, based on Reuters’ analysis.

Some of the cops involved in the operations were called “Davao Boys” because they hailed from or near Davao before they were transferred to Quezon City. On Tuesday, lawmakers grilled Patay for “bringing” the said cops with him. The police officer, however, argued that an order from Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) national headquarters, made the transfer possible.

ABANG LINGKOD Representative Joseph Stephen Paduano also grilled Patay because of the latter’s initial refusal to cite the names of the officers he brought from Davao. The lawmaker even threatened Patay that the former Batasan police chief can be cited in contempt for his refusal to properly cooperate with the probe.

Hindi puwede (That can’t be), colonel. We’re not born yesterday, that you will not remember those names…those you brought from Mindanao,” Paduano said.

Later, Patay mentioned only five names: Piñero, Pal, Molinos, Timon, Ibit. After Patay’s response, Paduano asked the PNP to provide the background of the “Davao boys,” including the status of their employment or if they are retired, dismissed, or still in service.

Unlike the “Davao Boys,” the House did not invite former president Duterte in the next hearing, but rather just “informed” him.

Tuesday’s hearing was the continuation of the lower chamber’s probe into the drug war.

Lawmakers held a drug war hearing for the first time just last May, or eight years since Duterte launched his bloody campaign. Another House panel – committee on dangerous drugs – is also probing the massive illegal narcotics bust in Central Luzon and invited drug war whistleblowers Arturo Lascañas, a self-confessed former Davao Death Squad (DDS) member, and former anti-drug cop Eduardo Acierto.

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The parallel probes are being conducted amid the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) probe into the drug war, where almost 30,000 people were killed, and the alleged crimes by the DDS. Many await the ICC’s next move, which can possibly be the issuance of a warrant of arrest or summons.

Focus on drug war survivor

Castro also grilled Patay over the case of Efren Morillo, who survived a drug war operation in Quezon City in 2016 after “faking” his death. During the probe, the Makabayan lawmaker repeatedly asked Patay if he was aware of Morillo’s case. Patay argued that the operation was “legitimate.”

The ACT Teachers lawmaker reiterated that according to the police manual, cops who were part of operations where suspects died should undergo inquest proceedings. An inquest is a special preliminary investigation, where prosecutors are mandated to either immediately file a charge or drop the complaint.

Duty po ng police ang magpa-imbestiga o maimbestigahan. Kung ang nakabaril po ay mga pulis ninyo, dapat maimbestigahan po ito (It’s the police duty to investigate and be investigated. If police shot someone, they should be probed),” Castro added.

Morillo and his four companions – Anthony Comendo, Jessie Cule, Marcelo Daa, Jr., and Rhaffy Gabo – were shot by cops from Batasan police station in 2016. The four others died, but Morillo survived after “playing dead” and escaping through a small opening in the makeshift room where they were shot by the cops.

When the police discovered he survived the operation, Morillo was slapped with the direct assault complaint. On January 26, 2017, Morillo and the families of his friends filed the first drug war-related petition – a prayer for writ of amparo (protection) – with the Supreme Court. Eventually, the Court of Appeals granted the privilege of the writ and issued a permanent protection order for Morillo and his fellow petitioners.

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In March 2023, Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 133 acquitted Morillo of the charge filed against him by the police, noting that the drug war victim did not fight back against the police. Months later, the Office of the Ombudsman junked the criminal and administrative charges filed by Morillo against the cops. –

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Jairo Bolledo

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