Rappler and ANC report pattern of police brutality

CHEERS TO Rappler and ANC’s Rundown for reviewing past cases of police brutality in light of a recently reported case in Southern Leyte. Other media did report the incident but without the necessary reference to the pattern of violence exhibited by supposed protectors of the people.

On December 9, Police Staff Sergeant Ronald Gamayon of the Southern Leyte Provincial Police was seen by witnesses and caught on camera beating theft suspect Gilbert Ranes in Maasin City. Another video showed three men in civilian clothes and a police officer in uniform dragging Ranes into a police vehicle; a witness heard in the video said Ranes was being treated “like a pig.” 

On December 14, Inday Espina-Varona of Rappler detailed the case and described it as an “arc of brutality.” She said, “Ranes is the rare case where a series of graphic videos show the arc of events – from the 7 pm street side beating, to police station, to being carried out around 8 pm for hospital treatment. Doctors at the provincial hospital tried to save Ranes but pronounced him dead at 11 pm.” He died from severe head trauma according to the medical report.

Espina-Varona cited Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch (HRW) who said that police officers should be made accountable by authorities and that laws against police abuse should be upheld. 

“Ranes’ family deserves justice, and a thorough and impartial investigation should be undertaken into his apparent wrongful death in police custody,” Conde said. Rappler also noted HRW’s report that called attention to previous cases of police abuses, particularly during the six-year “war on drugs” of former president Rodrigo Duterte. 

Conde elaborated on these cases on ANC last December 16. Anchor Mike Navallo asked how common the case of Ranes is in the Philippines. Conde said that torture by the police remains prevalent in the country, although most of the incidents have no recorded footage. “A lot of them happen in detention facilities, in holding cells of the PNP,” Conde added.

Conde recalled reported instances which include the use of a “wheel of torture,” the existence of a secret detention cell in Manila discovered by the Commission on Human Rights, and the detention of youth in dog cages for allegedly violating curfews during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“The normalized act of police officers mistreating, slapping, kicking victims or suspects, that’s a form of torture but it’s so prevalent,” Conde said. He added that this case shows the “sheer brazenness” of the police and “even impunity as Gamayon felt he could get away with that even with the full view of the public.” 

Similar cases of killings by the police – Jonel Nuezca in December 2020 and Hensie Zinampan in May 2021– were also videotaped by bystanders and went viral on social media, getting the sustained attention of mainstream news outfits. The media should always be on the lookout for such cases, as their persistent attention could help check the excesses of the police, which are supposed to protect citizens.