4 cops in drug war operation convicted of homicide

MANILA. In this file photo, a police officer guards the scene where a suspected drug offender was shot dead by the police as part of the government's war on drugs.
MANILA. In this file photo, a police officer guards the scene where a suspected drug offender was shot dead by the police as part of the government's war on drugs.File photo

FOUR cops were found guilty of homicide in relation to the killing of a father and his son during an anti-illegal drug operation in Caloocan City in 2016.

The Caloocan Regional Trial Court Branch 121 handed down its decision on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, sentencing Police Master Sergeant Virgilio Cervantes and Corporals Arnel de Guzman, Johnston Alacre and Artemio Saguros Jr. to six years up to 10 years of imprisonment.

They were also ordered to pay P400,000 each in damages to the family of the victims Luis Bonifacio and his 19-year-old son Gabriel.

In its order, the court said it was not convinced by the defense of the accused that the victims fired shots at them, prompting them to fire back.

“It is highly improbable that these victims sustained multiple injuries in the different parts of their body if the accused fired only one shot each to defend and keep themselves safe from the gunshots coming from the upper part of the house,” the order read.

According to the family’s matriarch, Mary Ann, on the night of September 15, 2026, at the height of then President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown against illegal drugs, police officers barged into their house, straight to the second floor and poked their long guns at them and ordered them to go down.

She said Luis was ordered to kneel, while his son repeatedly begged for their lives before they heard gunshots.

The court noted the multiple gunshots of the victims, as well as other fractures and wounds that made the cops’ claim that they only fired shots for self-defense “highly improbable.”

“The totality of the evidence presented would clearly show that the gunshots made by the accused were not intended to just protect the safety of the police officers,” the court said.

“The injuries sustained by the victims, the multiple gunshots on their bodies, as well as other fractures and wounds would glaringly show the brutality employed upon them, despite the pleading for mercy of the victims,” it added.

It said that firing of shots made by all the accused, which caused the death of the victims without justifiable cause, shows “same criminal intent towards the same criminal design.”

Mary Ann earlier sought the intervention of the Supreme Court for the reversal of a resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman that fixed the number of the accused to four instead of 15. The Office of the Ombudsman also downgraded the charges to homicide instead of murder.

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the decision, saying it was the fourth known conviction out of the thousands of fatal and questionable anti-drug operations carried out during the Duterte administration. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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