Tokhang victim files murder charges vs cops

MANILA, Philippines – Efren Morillo, the lone survivor in an alleged execution-style killing of drug suspects in Payatas, filed murder charges against policemen of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on Thursday, March 2.

Morillo filed charges of frustrated murder, murder, robbery, and planting of drugs and firearms before the Office of the Ombudsman against Senior Inspector Emil Garcia, Police Officer 3 Allan Formilleza, Police Officer 1 (PO1) James Aggarao and PO1 Melchor Navisaga, who were formerly cops of QCPD Station 6.

They have since been transferred to police offices outside Quezon City and Montalban, Rizal. (READ: 1st petition vs Oplan Tokhang filed at SC)

Morillo and the kin of 4 of his companions who died during the police operations were granted permanent protection orders prohibiting the said policemen from going within a radius of one kilometer from them. The Court of Appeals also ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to update them of their investigation.

The charges stem from an Oplan Tokhang operation conducted in Group 9, Area B, Payatas, Quezon City on August 21, 2016.

Cops from the QCPD Station 6 allegedly shot the 4 men "execution-style" and managed to kill them, except for Morillo who was able to escape to safety. (READ: A gruesome tale of Tokhang: 'Sir, may humihinga pa')

Planting evidence

Morillo also filed charges of violation of Section 29 of the Dangerous Drugs Ac and Section 38 of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, both of which penalize the planting of drugs and firearms as evidence in the crime scene.

According to Morillo's affidavit, the policemen raided the house where they were playing pool, and later came out with a silver foil and a toy gun.

"From what I have narrated, it is clear that we were not using shabu but merely playing pool but we were arrested and forced to admit that we own the plastic sachet with white substance inside that they were holding," Morillo said in the complaint.

The sachets of alleged methamphetamine or "shabu" were later marked as recovered evidence in the spot report filed by the policemen last August.

Morillo said the policemen are criminally accountable for planting firearms for saying that the killing was a result of "nanlaban" or suspects resisting the arrest. The cops told the media on the night of the incident that the suspects shot at them first.

The lawyers for Morillo add that the policemen have conflicting statements.

"The official police reports claim it was a chance encounter during a tokhang operation, but in interviews with media, they said they caught the victims holding a drug session; in thus making conflicting accounts of their deadly action," said the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) in a statement.

Aside from the four policemen, Morillo also filed the same charges against Lea Barcelona, Mary Joy Ralo, Lorie Barcelona, Richard Andan alias "Manok" who were allegedly used by the policemen as informants.

Challenging TokHang

The filing of criminal charges comes in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that he will revive the police's war on drugs. He earlier suspended it pending the "internal cleansing" among police ranks. (READ: Duterte on war on drugs: 'More killings to come')

Lawyer Christina Antonio, one of Morillo's lawyers, told Rappler: "It’s very unfortunate as we have consistently said that there must be a rethinking of Tokhang as a policy as it is being abused by policemen."

According to Antonio, Morillo is on the process of regaining his life back and moving on. There was a time, Antonio said, that Morillo would just hide inside his house and only go out when there's a hearing or there's a meeting with lawyers.

"But he is very motivated now because of the support being given to him by the human rights community. A lot of them are giving monetary support and Efren is thinking of putting up his carinderia," Antonio said.

Antonio said the kin of the 4 killed suspects would follow in filing charges against the policemen.

Morillo's earlier petition for writ of amparo was the very first legal challenge against Duterte's Oplan Tokhang. Lawyers from the CenterLaw said they are studying filing a case that would question the very legality of Tokhang. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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