When protectors become tormentors

Centerlaw's Romel R. Bagares files the first suit in connection with the Duterte administration's Oplan Tokhang at the Supreme Court.

There’s a part in the narration by the surviving victims of Oplan Tokhang in Payatas in Quezon City last August 21 that sends chills down one’s spine.

In the petition for Writ of Amparo filed by Centerlaw before the Supreme Court last Thursday, it related that a few days after the killings, a television reporter and his crew came to Area B, Group 9, Bgy. Payatas to interview witnesses. “However, no one agreed to speak with him or even come near him because unbeknownst to him, the police escort he took with him to the area is PO3 Allan Formilleza, one of the policemen involved in the killings.All the members of the community were terror-stricken at the sudden appearance of Formilleza that day.”

That was frightening.

We were reminded of a similar story years ago by anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang See’s about a young Filipino –Chinese boy who was a victim of a kidnap-for-ransom syndicate. She accompanied the boy and his parents to Camp Crame for questioning to help authorities find the kidnappers.

Once inside the Camp Crame office with the anti-kidnapping group, the boy became terrified. One of the officers was one of his kidnappers!

The murder ofSouth Korean shipping executive Jee Ick-joo inside Camp Crame and the tanim-shabu video presented by Sen. Panfilo Lacson at the Senate hearing last week showed the depravity of some members of the police force, the people being paid to protect the public.

Horror stories about the Duterte administration’s Oplan Tokhang don’t get less appalling even as they have become a daily happening.

VERA Files file photo by Luis Liwanag

In the Payatas incident, one of the victims, Efren Morillo, miraculously survived. Here’s excerpts from the petition, the first filed in connection with the government’s dreaded Oplan Tokhang:

“In the afternoon of 21 August 2016, Marcelo Daa, Jr., Raffy Gabo, Anthony Comendo, Jessie Cule and Efren Morillo were in the house of their friend Marcelo Daa, Jr. at the foot of a hill in Bgy. Payatas, Quezon City. Morillo was there to collect a debt from Daa, while Daa, Gabo, Comendo and Cule were passing time until their six o’ clock workshift in the evening as garbage collectors.

“A little after one o’ clock in the afternoon, five men and two women in civilian clothes suddenly arrived. They entered the wooden gate and rushed inside the yard, startling Daa, Cule and Morillo, who were playing pool at a pool table in a hut on one side. The men pulled out short firearms and aimed them at the latter. Gripped by fear, Daa, Cule and Morillo put up their hands in surrender.

“The armed men handcuffed Daa and Morillo. They pulled electric wire from the ceiling of the hut which they used to tie Cule’s hands. They fetched Gabo and Comendo who were at the hammock at the back of the house and also tied their hands with electric wire. Then, they made Daa, Morillo, Cule, Gabo and Comendo sit side by side on a bench. The whole time, the armed men kept accusing the five captives of being involved in illegal drugs. Realizing that the armed men are policemen, Daa, Morillo, Cule, Gabo and Comendo piteously protested their innocence of any crime.

“The armed men entered the house. Cowering inside were Marcelo Daa, Jr.’slive-in partner, MaribethBartolay, and also his Aunt Ising. The armed men proceeded to ransack the house, rummaging through personal effects and furniture. They took a cellphone and tablet device they found therein. They forcedMaribeth to take off her silver necklace and rings and hand these over to them. They also took Marcelo’s collection of metals which the latter painstakingly acquired by scavenging. All the while, the armed men were laughing and mocking Maribeth and Ising: “Ilabas ‘nyona ‘yung Pokemon!Saan mo ba nilagay ‘yung Pokemon?”

“The armed men emerged from the house carrying a silver foil and a lighter in the shape of a gun. They crowed to Daa, Morillo, Cule, Gabo and Comendo that the items prove the latter’s involvement in illegal drugs. The five captives fervently denied owning the said items.

“The armed men hustled Daa, Morillo, Cule, Gabo and Comendo to the back of the house. One of the armed men took Daa and Morillo to a makeshift room at the back connected to the house, but whose two walls are missing. One opening leads to a ravine about three meters away. The armed man made Daa sit on a wooden chair and Morillo on the arm rest thereof. Then, without warning, he pointed his firearm at Morillo and shot him on the chest. Morillo fell to the ground bleeding, but he did not lose consciousness. Next, the armed man shot Daa, who fell to the ground beside Morillo. Daa was shot a second time on the head as he lay on the ground. He died.

“Lying beside Daa, Morillo played dead. When the armed man left the room, Morillo crawled out of the opening and onto the edge of the ravine. Pressing one hand over his bleeding chest, he slid down the ravine and landed on the bank of a stream at the bottom thereof. Morillo crossed the stream, trudged up the hill on the other side and walked until he reached the highway. There, providentially, he encountered an acquaintance who was the barker of a jeepney. The latter and the jeepney driver took pity on him and acceded to his request to be brought to a hospital near his home in Montalban, Rizal.

“Morillo was brought to the Montalban Infirmary in Kasiglahan Village, Rodriguez, Rizal. Unfortunately, there was no doctor on duty at the infirmary so that only first aid could be applied to his chest wound.Moreover, personnel at the infirmary reported his condition of being shot to policemen at the Community Police Action Center (COMPAC) near thereat.

“Policemen from the COMPAC went to the infirmary to see Morillo. At the latter’s behest, the policemen went to Morillo’s house in San Isidro, Montalban, Rizal to inform his mother, Victoria Morillo about what happenedand take her back with them to the infirmary.

“Morillo recounted to the Montalban policemen the attack against him and his friends earlier that afternoon by policemen in Quezon City. But much to his alarm the Montalban policemen insisted that they turn him over to Quezon City Police Station 6, whose area of responsibility includes Bgy. Payatas, the place of the incident.

“Morillo pleaded not to be handed over to Station 6, insisting that he did not commit any crime and that in fact he is a victim himself. He was terrified when he realized the likelihood that the policemen who shot him and killed Daa, Cule, Gabo and Comendo are assigned at the said station. Despite his pleas, the Montalban policemen loaded Morillo in an ambulance and brought him to Quezon City Police Station 6 in Bgy. Batasan Hills, Quezon City. The only concession given him was the company of his mother Victoria in the ambulance.

“Morillo arrived by ambulance at Quezon City Police Station 6 at nine o’ clock in the evening. There he was made to wait indefinitely, the policemen unmindful of his serious wound. Morillo slipped in and out of consciousness as he lay on the ambulance stretcher. At one point, he heard a voice say: “Matibay ang bata na ‘yan. Alas tres pa may tama na, hanggang ngayon buhay pa.”

“Finally, after many pleas by his mother Victoria, the policemen transported Morillo to East Avenue Medical Center. Morillo was shot at three o’ clock in the afternoon but because the Montalban police footdragged in taking him to the hospital, he only received proper medical attention at around midnight, or nine hours later.

“Morillo survived his gunshot wound and recuperated at the East Avenue Medical Center. However, his fear for his life did not ebb because during the whole ten (10) days that he was confined at the hospital, as policemen from QCPD Police Station 6 kept him captive in his hospital room. Thankfully, officials from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)later on arrived and rescued him from the said policemen.

“A few days after the killings, a television reporter of GMA 7, Jay Taruc, and his crew visited the place of the incident in Area B, Group 9, Bgy. Payatas and sought to interview witnesses. However, No one agreed to speak with him or even come near him because unbeknownst to him, the police escort he took with him to the area is PO3 Allan Formilleza, one of the policemen involved in the killings.All the members of the community were terror-stricken at the sudden appearance of Formilleza that day.

Respondents in the petition include the PNP itself, represented by PNP Chief Ronald dela Ros;PSSupt. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, QCPD director; P/Supt. Lito Patay, QCPD PS 6 Station Commander; P/SI Emil S. Garcia; PO3 Allan Formilleza; PO1 James Aggaraoand PO1 Melchor Navisaga and/or any of their agents.

With the help of the CHR and Centerlaw, Efren Morillo, Martino Morillo, Victoria Morillo, Ma. Belen Daa, Marla Daa, Maribeth Bartolay, Lydia Gabo, Jennifer Nicolas and Marilyn Malimban, mustered enough courage to bring the police officersto the court.

Centerlaw’s Romel Bagares said the “This Petition for the issuance of the Writ of Amparo is the Petitioners and aggrieved parties’ cry for help and protection against further violation of their constitutional and human rights to life, liberty and security.”


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