A week of ‘isolated cases’: Teenager’s killing fits pattern of police misconduct

THE NAVOTAS City police, in an apparent attempt to mollify public outcry over the killing of another teenager, described the killing of Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar on August 2 as an “isolated case.” The claim, however, flies in the face of evidence – not just the killing, six years ago, of Kian delos Santos, who was Baltazar’s age – that point to persistent misconduct by police officers.

In fact, in the days following Baltazar’s killing, CMFR noted a series of incidents involving violence perpetrated by law enforcers. CMFR monitored these recent cases as reported by the media for over a week from August 2 to 11, 2023.

  • On August 2, nine police officers in civilian clothes ransacked and robbed the residence of a drug suspect in Imus, Cavite. The operation and robbery were caught on a CCTV video that went viral on social media.
  • On August 6, Police Staff Sergeant Nico Galvesolo indiscriminately fired and pointed his gun at four teenagers in Jaro district in Iloilo City. This was reported by the Star and Manila Bulletin. 
  • On August 7, Police Executive Master Sergeant Herberto Saquiped and Police Chief Master Sergeant Alraquib Aguel shot each other after a heated argument at the Taguig City police station. Two were wounded – Aguel and Corporal Alison Sindac who tried to calm down both officers – while Saquiped died. 

    Radyo Inquirer, Manila Standard, and ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol reported one of the police officers as Muslim and that the argument was triggered by a pork dish. 
  • On August 9, Police Executive Master Sergeant Maria Eliza Palabay in Occidental Mindoro allegedly threatened household helper Elvie Vergara not to report the abuse allegedly inflicted by her employers causing her to go blind and to lose her teeth. This was first reported by ABS-CBN News’ TV Patrol.
  • On August 10, Police Staff Sergeant Jaymart Errol Dawis of the Batasan police station accidentally shot a civilian during a commotion in Quezon City. This was reported by The Star.
  • On August 11, Patrolman Jayvoi Farrales threatened personnel of the Department of Public Service of Manila’s local government unit. Showing he was armed but in civilian clothes, he cursed, threatened, and asked who catcalled his girlfriend. This was reported by TV5’s Frontline Pilipinas

In their coverage of Baltazar’s killing, three news outlets linked some of the cases mentioned. In an interview with PNP spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo, GMA’s Unang Balita asked if these incidents can still be called “isolated.” CNN Philippines’ News Night and Star linked the Taguig shooting on August 7 and the robbery in Cavite on August 2 with the killing of Baltazar. The two latter reports also cited watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, which said these incidents are “alarming” and called on the PNP for accountability. Both outlets provided the count of dismissed, demoted, and suspended police personnel in a year. 

CMFR found these reported cases in a span of a week. A quick scan of headlines this year shows more cases. In June this year, CMFR found a report on three policemen who tortured a teenager by rubbing chili powder on his genitals. In April, a police corporal mauled and aimed his pistol at his girlfriend. 

Last year, December 2022, several news accounts recalled past cases of police brutality when they reported the case of PSSg Ronald Gamayon who was caught on camera beating and eventually killing a suspect in Southern Leyte.

From January to June 2021, CMFR recorded at least 20 civilian killings by state agents, not including drug-related killings as monitored by DahasPH, which found that many of these killings were committed by law enforcers. In the same year, August to October 2021, CMFR also counted at least five cases of police violence against quarantine violators. 

Documenting these cases and reporting on them may be heartbreaking and draining; and yet, the media holds the sharp instruments of journalism with which to study the cases, identify the pattern and link these to the longstanding problems that have hounded the PNP. It may be the only way to achieve a measure of accountability from the state agency which has so far been unable to correct criminality and address other deficiencies in its operations.

More importantly, media’s independent study would serve as a most effective tool with which to educate the public, press for reform and help families of victims in their efforts to attain justice.

ALSO SEE:Another Kian? Police killing of Navotas teen prompts media scrutiny