PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte cleared the police force on Friday over the recent killings of teenagers in police operations, claiming certain groups were out to sabotage the government’s war on drugs.
Police may be suspected of gunning down suspects, but would never wrap the head of a young boy with packaging tape, as in the case of Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, the 14-year-old boy found floating in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday.
De Guzman was the last known companion of Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, the ex-UP student killed in an alleged shootout with police in Caloocan City, some 25 kilometers from their village in Cainta, Rizal.
Arnaiz was killed two days after Caloocan police gunned down 17-year-old Kian Loyd de los Santos in another supposed shootout on August 16.
Arnaiz’s remains were found in a Caloocan City funeral parlor on August 28, 10 days after he went missing, bearing signs of torture.
‘We don’t salvage’
The President said he would never allow police to kill Arnaiz, as the boy was a distant relative.
Arnaiz’s father, from Maasin, Leyte is said to be from the Roa clan of Duterte’s late mother.
“One of those killed, Arnaiz, is my relative. Why would I allow my relative to be killed?” Duterte said.
“You [police]take a hard look [at it]because your efforts are being sabotaged. It is intentional. The police will fire a gun, if at all. But it (Philippine National Police) won’t wrap the head [of the suspect]. It’s not the job of the police,” Duterte said in remarks during the 17th cityhood anniversary of Digos City, Davao del Sur.
“There are efforts to sabotage you (police). And I have this to say about my relative, Carl Arnaiz. There are people cooking [a plan]to discredit us,” Duterte said without naming individuals or groups.
“We don’t do salvage. We do not do that. That’s foolish. [I told the police] to just follow the law; fight back when your life is in danger because you have to place the suspect under custody; you have to overcome the resistance,” Duterte added.
“It is not our job [to commit salvage], and I don’t allow that,” Duterte said. “We operate within the bounds of the law.”
Watch over children
Arnaiz and de Guzman’s deaths came after the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos who witnesses claimed was shot dead by the police. A CCTV video showed de los Santos being dragged by the Caloocan City police in a dark alley without resistance.
After de los Santos’ death, the President clarified that police could only kill a suspect when their lives are threatened while on duty—something that he reiterated in Digos.
Earlier in the day, Abella stressed that rogue police have no place in the Philippine National Police (PNP) and that the government needed public support in the effort to cleanse the police ranks.
“Like we have said earlier, any death, even just one violent death, is a call for concern, especially with the younger ones,” Abella said.
But the Palace spokesman also put irresponsible parents to task, saying they have to do their part by being watchful over their children and the company their young ones kept.
“We remind them [parents]to make sure that they’re kept away from questionable activities; to warn them again and again not to be even near, and not entertain suspicious activities or even companions,” Abella said.
Taxi turned over
The taxi said to have been hailed by Carl Arnaiz on August 18 was turned over by its management to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday.
Representatives of R&E Taxi based in Baesa, Caloocan City went to the NBI headquarters on Taft Avenue in Manila on Friday morning, bringing with them documents on the driver, Tomas Bagcal, 54.
Bagcal, who is missing, was the taxi driver allegedly robbed by Arnaiz on August 18.
Company representatives led by Pet Lanuza, president of the R&E labor union, turned over the daily time record showing that Bagcal reported for work on August 17 at 4:22 p.m. and returned to the garage the following day at 9:05 a.m.
Bagcal had been with R&E Taxi since 2008. He graduated in 1984 from La Sallete College in Santiago City with the degree bachelor of science in business administration, major in banking and finance.
His last duty was on September 3 at 4:23 p.m., and he returned to the garage the following day at 5:16 a.m.
The plate number of his taxi unit is UWK-620.
The taxi will undergo forensic tests for crucial information to establish that Arnaiz at least rode the taxi.
On Friday, the PNP spokesman, the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) chief, and the Metro Manila police chief were divided on who killed Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.
Oscar Albayalde, National Capital Region Police Office chief, reiterated in an interview with The Manila Times on Friday it was probable de Guzman was entangled with crime syndicate.
“First, let me make one thing straight, that I’m not saying that he is a member of a syndicate. We are just looking on that angle also,” he said.
Albayalde brought up the allegations of de Guzman’s mother who said in a television interview on Thursday that she heard from Kulot’s friend “MJ” that her son and his friends, including Carl Arnaiz, were planning a robbery the night Kulot went missing.
“Maybe a group was exploiting them. Maybe when they found out that Carl was killed, they also killed Kulot. So that he won’t be able to rat on them,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde pointed out it was still disputable if de Guzman and Arnaiz were together when they went from Rizal to Nueva Ecija and Caloocan City respectively.
The PNP-IAS is also investigating the possibility that the Caloocan policemen who killed Arnaiz also killed de Guzman.
“That’s what I’m ordering the investigators to find out,” IAS Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo said.
PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos doubted that the Caloocan police who killed Arnaiz had something to do with the killing of de Guzman.
“What will be the motive to kill Reynaldo?” Carlos asked.
WITH JAIME R. PILAPIL AND RJ CARBONELL