SENATORS noted discrepancies on the testimonies of the two witnesses who saw how two police officers shoot and kill 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz hours after he was arrested for allegedly robbing a taxi driver in Caloocan City.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, said the discrepancies could affect the prosecution of the case which, along with the killing of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos, had caused public outrage.
Lacson said there was no doubt there would be probable cause to file charges against Police Officers 1 (PO1) Jeffrey Perez and Ricky Arquilita before prosecutors, but guilt beyond reasonable doubt had yet to be proved.
At the resumption of the Senate inquiry into drug-related killings, the committee listened to the testimonies of Tomas Bagcal, the taxi driver who was allegedly robbed by Arnaiz, and a certain Joe Daniel who claimed to have seen the shooting.
The two claimed that Arnaiz was on his knees and handcuffed when he was allegedly shot by two police officers on C3 Road in Caloocan City on August 18.
Appearing for the first time in the hearing, Bagcal and Joe Daniel positively identified Perez and Arquilita as Arnaiz’s killers.
Bagcal in his testimony before the Senate panel said Arnaiz and a younger person hailed his taxi at around 12:30 a.m. and asked to him to take them to Fifth Avenue in Caloocan City.
Upon reaching Fifth Avenue, Bagcal said Arnaiz told him to keep on driving.
After several meters, Arnaiz declared a hold up and pointed a knife at the back of Bagcal’s ear.
He then stopped his car near a tricycle terminal and tried to signal bystanders in the area using the headlights of his taxi.
A tricycle driver noticed the commotion inside Bagcal’s taxi and approached them, but Arnaiz and his companion, believed to be Reynaldo de Guzman, tried to flee on foot.
De Guzman was reported missing after the incident and his body was later found floating on a creek in Nueva Ecija.
Bagcal, with the help of several bystanders, caught the two and took them to the nearest police station.
‘Sir Lakay’ takes over
Upon arriving at the police station, Bagcal said one police officer who introduced himself as “Sir Lakay” asked Arnaiz and his companion where they were from. The two replied that they were from Cainta in Rizal province.
The police officer then took Bagcal to a room inside the police station and told him they would get rid of the two, while making a throat-slitting gesture. But Bagcal told “Sir Lakay” he just wanted to turn over the two to the police station.
“He said: ‘We’ll just dump them,’ and made a throat-slitting gesture. But I still told him that I just wanted to turn over the two hold-uppers,” Bagcal, quoting “Sir Lakay,” told the committee in Filipino.
“I was terrified at that and I couldn’t do anything. I was obliged to follow what they wanted to do,” Bagcal said, referring to the policemen.
On his knees
Bagcal said “Sir Lakay” boarded his taxi and instructed him to proceed to Dagat-Dagatan area where he saw Arnaiz shot, while the teenager was kneeling.
“Sir Lakay told me to ‘stop here.’ We stopped and then that was the time when they shot the hold-upper and he was on his knees,” Bagcal said, referring to Arnaiz.
Poe asked Bagcal if there was a time when Arnaiz tried to resist or plead to the policemen, but the taxi driver said the victim did not do anything.
The senator then turned to Joe Daniel, who said he also witnessed the killing on C3 Road near a Shell gasoline station.
According to Daniel, he was on his way home after attending a party in Caloocan City when he chanced upon the police car parked near the gasoline station.
Daniel said he saw Arnaiz taken out of the vehicle in handcuffs.
“I saw his face and I felt pity for him,” said the witness, who wore a hoodie and covered his face.
Daniel said he saw Arnaiz shot twice on a grassy part of the area, as the teen was kneeling and in handcuffs.
After the shooting, one of the police officers returned to the police car to get something and went back. He fired the gun twice at Arnaiz, he said.
He said he did not know what happened to the companion of Arnaiz who was also inside the police car.
The narrations of Bagcal and Joe Daniel were almost the same except for some discrepancies including the time when they said they witnessed the incident.
According to Bagcal, the shooting of Arnaiz happened shortly after 4 a.m. but Daniel told the committee he witnessed the killing between 1:20 a.m. and 2 a.m.
Lacson said the Department of Justice must carefully determine who among the two was more credible.
The senator, a former national police chief, called for a reenactment of the incident to allow investigators to check the locations mentioned by the witnesses.
Lacson also said there were differences in the findings of the scene of the crime operatives and the Public Attorney’s Office, particularly on the entry and exit wounds found on the body of Arnaiz.
“We can certainly expect that there will be a finding of probable cause but the question is if it could pass the test of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Remember probable cause and guilt beyond reasonable doubt are two different things,” Lacson said.