Four police officers of the Daraga Municipal Police Station are facing an administrative charge in connection with the killing of three men, including the son of journalist Carmelo Rima, in 2019 during an alleged buy-bust operation.
Last week, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Regional Director Atty. Arlene Alangco approved the finding of Attorney IV Atty. Lorrain Ampongan-Marcaida that the human rights of Pedrito Marco “Mao” Reolo Tibay, Pete John Carlo Tibay Rima, and Jeruh Salem Nedia Catubig had been violated by the respondents.
The March 10, 2022 resolution recommended that an administrative charge be filed with the National Police Commission Regional Office V for the conduct of pre-charge investigation against PLt Linus Dominic Lopez, PMSg Evan Orayan, PCpl Christian Verdillo, and PCpl Analiza Casulla for failure to strictly comply with the requirements of Section 21 of Republic Act 9165.
Considering the “disputable presumption” of a human rights violation in cases of Oplan Tokhang or in “Nanlaban” wherein the suspects were killed, it submitted the case for possible financial assistance for the families of the victims.
The case arose from an incident that occurred on or about 6 PM of Feb. 22, 2019 inside a small house at the back portion of Tibay’s compound at Purok 7, Binitayan, Daraga, Albay wherein the three victims were killed in an alleged drug buy-bust operation.
The police operatives’ defense stated that the victims resisted arrest after the drug transaction and one of the victims suddenly drew a firearm and fired at the poseur-buyer, triggering the firefight which resulted to the death of the victims.
A sister of Mao, who had been previously identified as a drug pusher despite his surrender in 2016, told the CHR that when the police brought out the body bags, they opened the bags, put their hands in the pockets of each victim and pulled a sachet of white substance alleged to be shabu.
She stressed that the recovery of each shabu packet from each victim was done after the scene of the crime was already processes and at the time when the victims were already moved out of the place of incident.
Another witness corroborated her claim and vouched that her nephews, Rima and Tibay, had never possessed a gun in their lifetime.
There was excessive force employed in the killing of Rima, who sustained 13 gunshot wounds in the different parts of his body. The young man was then taking up a caregiver course at TESDA and was about to be deployed to Japan the following month.
The police came to the compound at 6 PM on board a red sedan followed by two motorcycles, with four men and a woman in civilian clothes alighting from the car. At 6:10 PM, gunshots rang out inside the bunkhouse where the three victims were located and this lasted for five minutes.
According to the police officer-respondents, the three victims were the target of the operation which led to an exchange of fire when Tibay noticed that the payment consisted of boodle money.
PCpl Verdillo claimed that all three were armed and fired at the lawmen, leading to the firefight.
Later the police recovered at the scene three loaded Magnum .357 revolvers and spent cartridges, as well as five small sachets of shabu from the cadavers and drug paraphernalia.
Denying the charge of arbitrary deprivation of life, murder, misconduct and irregularity in the performance of duty, they contended that they had no recourse but to use their firearms in the performance of duty.
In its resolution, the CHR said the arbitrary deprivation of life of victim Rima and his companions is a clear violation of his right to life or security from physical harm.
It likewise noted the non-cooperation of the PNP on documentary requests regarding the incident and non-compliance with the three-witness rule wherein the presence of three witnesses must be secured not only during the inventory but also at the time of the warrantless arrest as required under Sec. 21 of RA 9165.
In a statement released to the media, journalist Carmelo Rima said: “Amid sorrow in memory of my son, it’s laughable that the Daraga police claim it was a ‘nanlaban’ case with 13 bullets piercing Carlo’s body with many at pointblank range. I thank CHR for the resolution but justice is still a long way off.”