“THEY shot a good boy. They are wrong and we will file charges.”
This was the statement of the family of 15-year-old John (real name withheld), whom police shot during an operation in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City last Saturday night.
Operatives from the City Intelligence Branch (CIB) and the City Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group chased John down a narrow lane when the latter allegedly tried to lift his arm, which was holding a gun, prompting them to shoot him.
The minor’s aunt Loisa, who asked not to be named, said they were about to go to bed when she heard the operatives going after John.
“They ran past our house. We got scared when we saw one of them armed. We didn’t want to get hit,” she said in Cebuano.
The last thing she heard was a man, who she discovered later was a policeman in civilian clothes, shouting at her to turn off the lights before she heard her nephew groan in pain just outside their door.
“He was really pale. I thought he would die. Thank God, he was saved,” Loisa said in Cebuano.
Loisa said John’s older sister saw police place the handgun loaded with seven bullets inside the boy’s shorts.
Chief Insp. Cristopher Navida, head of the CIB, said they have evidence the boy was armed during the incident, adding that they had placed the area under surveillance for three days and nights.
“We were able to monitor the movements of drug runners and lookouts. In fact, we saw the boy walk back and forth on the main road without a shirt. He would always look at our vehicle when we were conducting surveillance,” Navida said in Tagalog, referring to the other suspects who were arrested during the operation.
If the boy was good as his father claims, then why was he out on the streets hanging out with bystanders, playing cards and drinking at around 10 p.m., which violates the curfew ordinance of the barangay, Navida said.
He said they are securing a copy of the footage from a close-circuit television camera that captured the chase to prove that it was a legitimate operation.
John, a grade 10 student at the Ramon Duterte National High School, has three sisters. His mother works as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.
Loisa said they will seek the help of the Commission on Human Rights 7 in filing a complaint against the involved police officers.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, Police Regional Office 7 director, has already ordered an investigation on the matter.
He told reporters the inquiry will focus on whether John was carrying a gun.
The boy, who was shot in the back, is confined in a public hospital.
Taliño, though, said the operation was legitimate.
The Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) 7 is also looking into the incident.
A team of investigators were sent to interview John and his relatives yesterday, said Senior Supt. Jonas Ejoc of RIAS 7.
Ejoc said they will look into any lapses the police may have committed during the operation.
Meanwhile, Taliño reminded operatives that they should defend themselves, especially when they believe they’re in danger.
“That’s why they should not hesitate to fire first,” he said in Tagalog.
Meanwhile, Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak will verify the claims of witnesses.
In an interview yesterday, he told reporters that he received text messages from the victim’s neighbors, claiming that John never had a gun in his possession.
“This is just one side. If it is true that the minor was unarmed and he was shot, there are witness who can testify. We will then file a case against those policemen… we should support the victim,” he said.
“It is also unfair for the victim’s side that he was immediately shot. But if it is true that the minor was armed, then what the police did was necessary to protect themselves. I hope the family and witnesses will not be afraid to testify because if they are, this will just be an accusation,” he said.
Sought for comment, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he will leave the evaluation to Tumulak, whom he has designated as deputy mayor for police matters.
He is confident, though, that the councilor will be able to assess the case thoroughly, saying it can’t be denied that the number of minor offenders is growing.