‘ICC investigations on Duterte’s responsibility must continue’
Activist groups welcomed the conviction of the Caloocan City policemen for the killing of two teenagers in 2017, but said there is no reason to rejoice yet as thousands of other victims are still denied justice.
Bayan Muna said that while it is glad that the families of Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman received initial justice, the conviction of former Police Officer Jefrey Sumbo Perez for “intentionally killing” the victims is proof that genuine investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the drug war killings is necessary,
“This conviction does not in any way detract us from our assertion that the justice system in the Philippines is inhospitable to human rights prosecution. Thousands of families continue to wait for justice years after their loved ones were brutally executed in ex-president (Rodrigo) Duterte’s drug war,” former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said.
Colmenares said that only a few low-ranking police officers like Perez are being prosecuted while high officials like Duterte remain unscathed.
In a 80-page decision, Judge Romana Lindayag del Rosario of the Navotas Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 287 ordered Perez to suffer 40 years in prison without eligibility for parole.
The former policemen was also ordered to pay each of the victims’ kin P100,000 for civil indemnities, P200,000 for moral and exemplary damages, and P45,000 for actual damages.
Perez’s co-accused in the double murder trial, former police officer Ricky Arquilita, died in detention in April 2019.
Testimonies presented in court said Perez shot Arnaiz five times while the 19-year old was on his knees begging for his life while 14-year old de Guzman was stabbed 28 times.
Arnaiz was later found by relatives in a Caloocan City funeral home while de Guzman was found in a creek in faraway Gapan, Nueve Ecija.
ICC investigations must continue
In a statement, Bagong Alyansan Makabayan (BAYAN) said there is not much rejoicing in Perez’s conviction.
“The very long period it took to convict the dismissed police officer—which is just among a handful convictions in the last six years—shows what is wrong in the Philippine justice system and why the ICC probe should continue,” BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
Human rights group Karapatan also welcomed the conviction but said it is lamentable and infuriating that it took a long time and that no higher-ups are made accountable.
“The drug war and its consequences are not mere acts of one or two police personnel – there are government policies behind it and there are those who ordered, incited and encouraged these killings and human rights violations. For the thousands of victims in Duterte’s drug war, this recent conviction remains a drop in the bucket,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
Colmenares, co-counsel for the victims in the ICC complaint against Duterte and other high-ranking government officials, said there should be vigilance in the Arnaiz and de Guzman cases as Perez is sure to appeal the case.
“We will continue to pursue the crimes against humanity case against Duterte and his subordinates in the ICC,” added the former Bayan Muna solon.
Colmenares said they will continue to oppose the demand of the Marcos-Duterte government for the ICC to stop its investigation.
“Kung matigil ang imbestigasyon sa ICC lalong mahihirapan makakuha ng hustisya ang EJK (extrajudicial killings) victims. Dapat mag partisipa ang pamilya ng mga EJK victims sa ICC para marinig din ang panig nila lalo nat kaanak nila ang pinatay sa drug war ng ex-president,” Colmenares said.
(If the investigations are stopped at the ICC, it will be more difficult to achieve justice for the EJK victims. The families of the EJK victims must participate to be heard as their loved ones were killed during the former president’s drug war.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)