THE Caloocan City regional trial court yesterday convicted three policemen of the controversial murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos that hogged the headlines at the height of President Duterte’s war on drugs last year.
Also, Branch 125 Judge Rodolfo Azucena Jr. sentenced Police Officer 3 (PO3) Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz to reclusion perpetua, or imprisonment from 20 to 40 years, without eligibility for parole.
Furthermore, Azucena ordered the lawmen to pay delos Santos’ family P100,000 as civil indemnity, P100,000 as moral damages, P45,000 as actual damages, and P100,000 as exemplary damages.
However, Oares, Pereda and Cruz were found not guilty of planting of illegal drugs and gun “for failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
The court meanwhile “archived” the case against Renato “Nonong” Loveras pending his apprehension.
In their defense, the lawmen claimed delos Santos first fired on them during an anti-illegal drugs sting. But a CCTV camera footage and witness accounts indicated otherwise.
Delos Santos was slain on the night of Aug. 16, 2017, during a “One Time, Big Time” operation of the Caloocan City police. He was tagged as a drug runner.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra welcomed the ruling of the Caloocan RTC in Kian’s case.
“This conviction debunks the myth that there is a culture of impunity in the government’s war against drugs,” Guevarra told reporters.
PNP chief on cops’ conviction
“The Philippine National Police respects the decision of judicial authorities that found three Caloocan City policemen guilty in the celebrated slay case of Kian delos Santos. The early resolution of the case is a clear indication that justice system works in this country. And your PNP stands ready to help ensure that justice will always be served to everyone,” PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said in a press statement.
“We recognize though that our justice system serves the interest of both the victim and the accused. Hence despite the conviction, we understand that legal remedies can still be sought by either of the party since the principle of due process works both ways,” he added.
Gen. Albayalde said that “this case can serve as a reminder for the rest of our personnel to be extra diligent in fulfilling the requirements of the law as we serve and protect our citizens. But this will not cause us to waiver a bit in our resolve to rid this society of the menace of illegal drugs.”
“We will be equally resolute in standing behind our front line personnel toiling in this war while fully upholding the constitutional rights of everyone,” he maintained.
DILG respects verdict
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano yesterday said that the verdict imposed by the court against the three Caloocan police officers in the Kian delos Santos killing proves that justice in the country is blind and does not distinguish whether one is in a position of authority or not.
In a statement, Ano said that the DILG respects the ruling of the Caloocan Regional Trial Court Branch 125 which found the three cops guilty of murdering the minor they arrested for illegal drugs during an operation.
Ano said that the conviction shows that the government is always on the side of the oppressed and does not condone nor tolerate any wrongdoing by persons who are tasked to enforce the law.
Delos Santos killing triggered public scrutiny of President Duterte’s war on drugs.
At the same time, the DILG chief warned policemen to be worthy of their badges and always uphold the law as they perform their duties.
The DILG assured the public that it will intensify its internal cleansing efforts to rid the police ranks of misfits and scalawags as it remains strongly committed to President Duterte’s campaign against criminality and illegal drugs.
With Alfred Dalizon, Joel dela Torre