TWO WITNESSES on Monday accused policemen of murdering their relatives who were involved in illegal drugs, in dramatic testimonies that gave a human element to the daily statistics of drug-related killings.
Mary Rose Aquino, 23, told the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights that her parents Rodelio and Rosalie Campos were victims of “salvage,” a slang term for summary execution, and tagged some members of the Antipolo City police as responsible not only for the murders but also for drug trafficking.
The committee also listened to the testimony of 26-year-old Harra Kazuo, a pregnant mother whose live-in partner and his father were shot and killed inside Pasay City Police Station 4 on July 7.
The investigation was headed by Sen. Leila de Lima, the committee chairwoman whose call for today’s probe earned her the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte. Fourteen senators showed up.
Aquino, who is married and the eldest of five children of the slain Campos couple, turned emotional as she narrated the events that happened on June 20 up to June 22, the day she found out that her parents were already dead at the morgue.
According to her, a former policeman she identified only as Police Officer 3 Torres, called her mother in morning of June 20 to talk about the money her mother was supposed to remit to the policeman.
Aquino, who admitted that her parents were involved in the sale of illegal drugs, said her mother got another call that afternoon, this time from a certain Rabe, but her mother failed to answer it because she was taking a bath. Rabe called again and this time it was her father who answered the call.
She said she could hear the discussion of her father and Rabe, particularly the instructions of the latter to her father to immediately proceed to a meeting place and remit the money.
The money, Aquino said, was from the sale of illegal drugs being supplied by the police officers to her parents.
She also admitted that aside from selling illegal drugs “recycled” by police from drug raids, her father also served as a police asset whose job was to look for drug dealers in their area.
Aquino added that she usually saw unformed policemen visiting their house several times a week to deliver drugs to their parents for repacking. There were even times when the police officers would sniff shabu in their house.
Asked by de Lima why she knew about the illegal operations of her parents, Aquino said her mother and father told everything to her.
Aquino said her parents left their house in the afternoon of June 20, to remit some P50,000 in cash to the police officers.
“That is their last remittance, because my parents had decided to change their ways. My father was to go back to being a driver,” Aquino told the committee in Filipino.
At around 8 p.m. the same day, her uncle told her that he received a text message form her mother saying that if they failed to return home it was Rabe who was with them last.
Her uncle received another text message from her mother informing them about a certain “Ong” who wanted them dead.
“That was the last text (message) my mother sent to my uncle,” Aquino said as she burst into tears.
She added that she only learned about the fate of her parents on June 22, when a police officer she identified as Gamad went to their house and told her that he saw her parents in a morgue. Gamad was part of the group of police officers his parents were working with, she said.
She then proceeded to the morgue and saw the lifeless bodies of her parents. She was told that the bodies were found in separate locations.
Aquino admitted that she decided to go straight to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to file a complaint instead of the Antipolo City police, since she believes that those behind the killing of her parents were connected with the city police.
De Lima at this juncture asked Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa about the side of the police on the incident, although she acknowledged that de la Rosa was not yet the head of the police service at the time of the incident.
“May I clarify … that this happened before this administration took over and they did not file a complaint to the police,” de la Rosa said.
Based on the official report obtained by the PNP chief, Aquino’s father was killed during a police encounter, while her mother was found dead in a separate location and her case is still under investigation.
De la Rosa also updated the senators on the latest figures on the government’s deadly anti-drug campaign: 712 have died in police operations, while 1,067 have been killed by either vigilantes or drug syndicates since July 1.
Harra Kazuo narrated how she, her live-in partner JP Bertes, and even their two-year-old daughter were subjected to police brutality after members of Pasay City Police raided their residence on July 6.
According to her, three police officers without a search warrant entered their house and asked her partner to bring out the shabu he was supposedly keeping inside the house.
The policemen, she said, were forcing her live-in partner to produce the drugs, and they punched him whenever they didn’t like his answer.
Kazuo admitted her husband was involved in the sale of illegal drugs but claimed that he had stopped the trade and was even scheduled to surrender to officials of Pasay City the next day.
She told de Lima that police, despite knowing that she’s pregnant, manhandled her during that raid when she tried to explain to them that her partner did not have what they were looking for.
One police officer even took off the underpants of their two-year-old daughter hoping to find hidden illegal substance, but did not found any.
Several minutes later, JP’s father, Renato, arrived and asked the policemen if they had a warrant, but they arrested him instead.
JP and Renato were taken to the police station where they were detained.
But Kazuo said she was able to talk to her partner JP while he was inside his cell the next day.
She said she left her partner to take her daughter to the Philippine General Hospital for a checkup. Later she got the news that her partner had been shot, after he allegedly tried to grab the firearm of a policeman.
JP and Renato sustained three gunshot wounds each, causing their immediate death, according to an autopsy.
The Commission on Human Rights said the police clearly committed human rights violations when they killed the two victims.
“The concerned officers committed a violation of the right against arbitrary deprivation of life and torture based on our autopsy report,” Gilbert Boiser, CHR- National Capital Region director, told the Senate committee.
Acting Pasay City police chief Sr. Supt. Nolasco Bathan informed the committee that murder charges had been filed against two police officers involved in the case.
As for the supposed members of the Antipolo Police who were said to be involved in illegal drug trade, PNP chief de la Rosa said he would look for the police officers and have them investigated.
No conclusion yet
De Lima, in an interview after the hearing, said there were no conclusions yet on the gravity of summary executions being carried out by the police.
She however said the two witnesses who gave their testimonies were able to provide a picture on what is happening on the ground, and that there were incidents of killings during police anti-drug operations that merited a second look.
“These are representative samples of the possible situation that is happening on the ground,” she added.
The committee resumes its probe at 9:30 a.m. today. De Lima said she would present 10 more witnesses.