Swat gets heat over mauling-A A +A
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
CEBU CITY -- Two police officers who were caught on camera beating a 29-year-old Papua New Guinea national filed a complaint against him before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office on Monday afternoon.
But also on Monday, the two officers from the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) were relieved while they face an investigation for causing Bennidict Penini’s physical injuries.
Police Officer (PO1) Phillip James Tanza and PO2 Bradford Lavandero will now be reporting to the Office of the City Director’s holding unit in the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).
Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas Director Marcelo Garbo Jr. ordered the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Branch to conduct the investigation to be led by Superintendent Audie Villasin.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will conduct a separate investigation on the two officers. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is waiting for the investigation report from the CHR.
Penini, an information technology student, was subdued by the police officers after he allegedly ran amuck in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City last Sunday morning.
PO2 Lavandero and PO1 Tanza filed a direct assault of a person in authority complaint against him, saying he threw stones at them during the incident.
During the inquest proceeding, Prosecutor Aida Sanchez lowered the complaint from direct assault to resistance to arrest.
Sanchez told reporters there wasn’t enough evidence to support the more serious charge.
According to the Revised Penal Code, some elements that constitute direct assault are when the offender “makes an attack, employs force, makes a serious intimidation or makes a serious resistance,” and “the offender knows that the one he is assaulting is a person in authority.”
Penini, assisted by lawyer Fritz Lastimoso, opted not to file a counter-affidavit to answer the police officers’ allegations.
With this development, the information of the case will be filed in the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCC).
Sanchez said a bail of P2,000 is usually set in such cases.
Lastimoso said that Penini will talk to his parents about the possibility of having the case settled outside the court.
Around 11:30 a.m. last Sunday, Lavandero and Tanza received a radio message telling them to support two Mobile Patrol Group (MPG) teams that responded to a trouble alarm outside Alicia Towers in Barangay Banilad.
When they arrived, they saw Penini allegedly throwing stones at a group of bystanders.
“We approached the said foreign national and introduced ourselves as police officers and instructed the same to put down the stones,” they said in their joint affidavit. “But instead of obeying, (Penini) became more aggressive and threw several stones at us.”
Afterwards, Penini allegedly struck a stone on the jaw of taxi driver Giovanni Catib.
“Sensing that (Penini) can no longer be handled in a diplomatic manner, we decided to apply tolerable force against him,” said the police officers.
Catib, 33, failed to file a complaint against Penini on Monday. He was also caught on camera kicking Penini.
“Hasol ang kaso…kon maapiki mo-file ko (A case would be a hassle…if I’ve no choice then I’d file a case),” he said.
In a phone interview, Primo Cadampog of the CHR-Central Visayas said it was clear from the ABS-CBN video that the two officers kept hitting Penini even if he had calmed down.
“That was an unnecessary act,” he said. Cadampog said the CHR still has to get the statements of both parties.
Before Penini allegedly ran amuck, he was arguing with another Papua New Guinea national. When the other person left, Penini allegedly started throwing stones at passers-by and kept shouting.
The responding officers said they tried to pacify Penini.
An ABS-CBN Cebu crew covering the incident shot the video footage of Tanza and Lavandero hitting the head and body of Penini, who was lying on the sidewalk, with the butt of their rifles. They also kicked him.
Catib joined in and kicked Penini several times, until one of the officers stopped him.
Penini was then brought to the Tourist Action Center (TAC).
Catib said he was thankful the two officers protected him.
“Kung wala lang sad gyud to siya (Penini) mamato, dili man sad gyud to siya ingon atuon sa mga pulis (If he hadn’t thrown stones at people, the officers wouldn’t have had to subdue him),” explained Gatib.
Meanwhile, Antonio Go, a family friend of Penini, went to the Police Regional Office and reported that the parents of Penini, who are reportedly members of the parliament in Papua New Guinea, were dismayed by the incident.
Go, a Cebuano and also a Papua New Guinea citizen, said he worries about the 40,000 Filipinos working in that country.
“If the people in Papua New Guinea know of this, they might get back at us by doing something bad to the Filipinos out there,” Go said.
He said that Penini arrived in Cebu last June and is a student in one of the universities in the city. He added that there were 29 Papua New Guinean students who arrived in Cebu City to study along with Penini.
When the other parents learned about the incident, he was instructed by the parents to let their children go home, he said.
Go said that along with the other foreign students, they are scheduled to go home to Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, including Penini.
Also on Monday, DFA-Central Visayas Director Elias Balawag said that Bienvenido Tejano, the Philippine ambassador to Papua New Guinea, called him to inquire about the incident.
Tejano is reportedly concerned because his agency is promoting Cebu as a tourist destination in Papua New Guinea.
The number of Papua New Guinea nationals who are coming to Cebu to study increased when Air Neugini, the country’s flag carrier, started operating a direct flight to the Mactan Cebu International Airport just a few months ago.
Acting Cebu City Mayor Joy Augustus Young is also concerned about the implications of the incident. He assured, though, that the city remains generally a peaceful place for foreign students.
“Any report like this is not good because it might discourage some foreigners to come here to study. But overall, Cebu City is still a safe place. We’ll get over this because it’s not an everyday occurrence… it’s an isolated case,” Young said in a phone interview. (KAL/JBT/With EOB/LCR/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 11, 2012.