Lessons learned

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014


IT HAS been a while since we last heard of Senior Police Officer 1 Adonis Dumpit. But when local media outlets issued advancers on the promulgation of the judgment of his case yesterday, a fellow columnist e-mailed me his 2005 column about the awards given during Cebu City’s Charter Day celebration that year. Dumpit was among the 18 awardees together with, ironically, then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Dumpit was originally charged with murder but Regional Trial Court Judge Ester Veloso, in a 27-page decision, convicted him of homicide instead and sentenced him to a prison term of six to nine years. Veloso found him guilty of killing robbery suspect Ronron Go in 2004 during a chase that ended in Barangay Tejero.

Actually, the judgment is not totally bad for Dumpit. One of his lawyers, Benjamin Militar, even commended Veloso for a “very thorough decision.”

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The reason for the elation is that, since homicide is a bailable offense, Militar said Dumpit may apply for bail and could be freed while they appeal Veloso’s verdict with the Court of Appeals.

Dumpit has been detained at the Cebu City Jail since his surrender in 2010. Bail can give him a jail respite while waiting for a final ruling of his case.

The resurfacing of Dumpit’s name brings us to a period in the history of Cebu City that we hope will never visit us again. It was a time when impunity ruled with killers roaming the streets in the guise of being armed vigilantes out the purge the city of criminal elements. It got to a point that the killings were perpetrated inside people’s homes.

That dark moment in the city’s history started somewhere in 2004, egged on by then Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s reaction to the rash of robbery incidents that sometimes resulted in the death of victims. It was a reaction that seemed to encourage the mimicking of a practice that originated in Davao City.

While there hasn’t been any proof linking Dumpit to the vigilante operations, his no-nonsense style of law enforcement made him a hero of those who favored the vigilante approach to crime prevention. His killing of Go, then only 17 years old, was a reflection of that approach. Go was reportedly armed and attempted to fire first. He was shot dead.

It isn’t surprising, therefore, that police officials reacted negatively to Dumpit’s conviction. They are claiming that the conviction sends a bad message to law enforcers, who will now be hesitant to go after suspected criminals, especially if they are armed.

But Judge Veloso has a point in her decision.

“Law enforcers,” she noted, “thrust their lives in unimaginable peril. Yet resort to wanton violence is never justified when their duty could not be performed otherwise.

The right to kill an offender is not absolute and may be used only as a last resort.

The law does not clothe police officers with authority to arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill.”

By the way, incidents of vigilante-style killings waned in 2007 when Patrocinio Comendador took over as chief of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

But that came after more than a hundred victims had already been felled and the practice caught the attention of human rights groups and even the State Department of the United States (as shown by documents leaked years later by the website Wikileaks).

There are lessons that can be learned from that dark episode in our city’s history as there are lessons that can be learned from the Dumpit case.

One of those lessons I would echo from Judge Veloso: “The law does not clothe police officers with authority to arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill.”

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 06, 2014.

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